A couple of weeks ago, I had the best day that this website has had in nine years – which, considering Bob Dylan had me all over his socials once, was no mean feat. The review (which gave a record 8/10, by the way) was retweeted by a major country star with the words “I never read reviews of my albums, why tf did I read this one,” and my Twitter, for a day or so, was like a parade of hate.

My crime? Well, simply, I said that it was generic and – shock horror – the girls he was writing about might not have been real. Which brings us to Annie Keating and her latest album, “Hard Frost.” You see, I’ve been reviewing Annie Keating’s records for years, and never once have you felt she’s not writing from the heart.

Opener “Lies And Dynamite” and the early line, “your kisses, my wishes and the truth” are the reasons why “Hard Frost” feels more real than the cookie-cutter singer/songwriter stuff out there. Annie Keating’s lyrics delve deep into honesty, it seems.

“Looking For Trouble,” for example, captures the essence of finding love when you least expect it, with a touch of Steve Earle’s style (and he should know, I guess, given that he’s been married about 47 times).

“Keepsakes And Heartbreak” showcases Keating’s cracked voice and excellent guitar work. The rawness and vulnerability in her performance are palpable.

“Sunshine Parade” takes a more expansive sound, infusing funk and sass into Keating’s music. It’s contrasted neatly by “Falling,” which exposes a more vulnerable side as she sings, “I’m just a girl.” The guard has come down and she’s in love again.

“Lovesick Blues” features an organ and a confessional delivery that adds depth to the song. “Belly Of The Beast” presents the line, “Ghosts don’t scare me, but you do,” as a testament to a sense of fear and intensity in the lyrics this time.

“Wrong Guys Girl” takes inspiration from Mary Gautier’s storytelling style, adding a dash of fun to taste, while “Witness” pulsates and throbs, captivating along the way.

“Feels Like Home” takes a gentler approach, evoking a sense of loneliness and longing, a theme that “So Lonely” continues, with its clever use of backing vocals, creating a timeless feel. Yet, as the song progresses, Keating’s artistry takes the listener on a journey of transformation and growth.

“Hard Frost” is an album that transcends superficiality, diving deep into genuine emotions and experiences. And honestly? That’s where I struggle in interpreting this. Love? For a football team? I can do that. My family? No problem. Matters of the heart, shall we say? No. No thanks.

I’m the very person that Axl Rose was talking about when he wrote about “vicarious existence” 30 years ago or so, I live my life through songs, through reviews. And maybe that’s why I can spot the fakers. If I were writing an album, I’d reach for clichés too.

But then, I’m not Annie Keating, and I’d never be able to write anything as good as “Hard Frost.” It’s a superb record, one that finds the phrase “three chords and the truth” right at its heart, unlike most.

Rating: 9/10

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