Ryan Hurd’s debut album, Pelago, has been a long time coming, although he’s no stranger to the music industry. Hurd has penned hits for other artists like Blake Shelton, Lady A, and Dierks Bentley, not to mention that his wife is none other than pop-country superstar Maren Morris. Even with his background and previous success, Hurd’s new album should turn the heads of country music fans. Pelago, which is an homage to Hurd’s Michigan roots, showcases his penchant for clever and introspective songwriting, as he delivers songs about cliched topics in refreshing ways.
“Pass It On” kicks off Pelago and finds Hurd adding his own twist to the tried and true country trope of positivity and having a good time. With twangy guitars, backing vocals from Morris, and an easy-flowing rhythm, Hurd encourages people to pass on whatever they have to other people. He sings, “What good is your dollar or your love or your bottle / If you keep it all to yourself? … ’Cause you can’t take it with you when you’re gone / So pass it on.” Because Hurd delves into some heavier subjects later in the project, “Pass It On” could serve as a reminder, either to Hurd himself or to his listeners, to stay optimistic regardless of what comes next.
“If I Had Two Hearts” contains some of the best songwriting on the entire album, and it’s a wonder the chorus’ through line hasn’t yet been used by some other artist. On this track, Hurd reflects on a past relationship with who he thinks might have been his only true love. In the chorus, he tells his former flame what he would do if he had two hearts: “If I had one more to give you, baby, I know what I’d do / I’d let you break that one, too.” This is such a simple turn of phrase but says so much about Hurd’s state of mind following his relationship. He is so lost and has fallen so hard for this girl that, if he had another heart to give, he would give it to her in a heartbeat.
“Chasing After You” is almost sure to be Hurd’s biggest commercial success, helped by the fact that it’s a duet with his equally talented wife, Morris. Hurd and Morris wrestle with the complicated feelings that come with an on-again, off-again relationship. Soft electric guitars and percussion slowly build throughout the song, mimicking the tangled relationship of the song. But after two verses, two choruses, and a bridge, Hurd and Morris both end the song with the same sentiment: “Every time, every time you say we’re done / You come back to the love you were running from / Don’t know why, don’t know why I let you but I do / Guess I love chasing after you.”
Pelago, with its nostalgic-inducing sound and effortless and sharp lyricism, shows Hurd for what he is: a country music all-star who deserves more of the spotlight than he gets. It’s not as though he sings about things that no one else does, but he molds his words in such a way that his feelings come out in catchy, sincere, and clever ways, and if Pelago is only Hurd’s first album, his fans should be excited for whatever he does next.
Featured Image Courtesy of Sony Music Nashville