Album Spotlight: Anne Wilson, ‘REBEL’

Posted on Friday, April 19, 2024 by Lindsay Williams

Album Spotlight: "REBEL" Anne Wilson

“REBEL” is more than the name of Anne Wilson’s new album. It’s the thematic inspiration for the two-time K-LOVE Fan Award winner’s next career move. Her sophomore set officially marks her introduction into the country market. While history is full of pioneers who have jumped from Christian music into another genre — and vice versa — Wilson is rebelliously forging her own path, attempting to plant one foot in Christian music and one foot in country music…at the same time.

Country music has swiftly embraced the “Rain in the Rearview” singer with a CMT Music Awards nomination and inductions into the Grand Ole Opry NextStage Class of 2024 and this year’s CMT Next Women of Country elite, among other prestigious honors. Meanwhile, her upcoming itinerary is full of Christian music festivals alongside appearances at the Grand Ole Opry and CMA Fest, while Wilson’s “Strong” guns for the top spot at Christian radio. Lest OG fans think the rootsy lead single is the album’s lone Christian song, they’ll be pleasantly surprised to discover “REBEL” is as spiritually rich as Wilson’s debut. The instrumentation might include more dobro and fiddle, but the message remains as steady and true as the raw, gritty offerings that made listeners initially fall in love with the “My Jesus” songstress.

Every single track on the 16-song project possesses an obvious Christian message — even “Red Flag,” a sassy, cautionary tale about boys who don’t walk the walk. If anything, Wilson should be commended for her boldness in taking the Gospel outside traditional church circles. Although country music has always warmly embraced faith, it’s rare for the genre to accept such an overtly Christian artist, especially one, who by all rights is still a relatively new act.

Part of the cohesion between “REBEL” and its predecessor comes from Wilson’s inner circle of songwriters. While Matthew West and Jeff Pardo — who also penned “My Jesus” with Wilson — helped her craft the majority of the fresh originals, they also introduced select country songwriting aces into the mix this time around, including Nicolle Galyon (Dan + Shay), Emily Weisband (Thomas Rhett) and Zach Kale (Gabby Barrett), among others.

Along the way, Wilson offers subtle nods to iconic country artists who have soundtracked her journey, including Carrie Underwood, George Strait and Garth Brooks. Additionally, she enlists country music darling Lainey Wilson for “Praying Woman,” an ode to her mama and all the early risers up reading their Bibles and praying over their families. CMA Award winner Jordan Davis also joins Wilson for the thoughtful “Country Gold,” which honors small towns, hard work and simple living.

If Wilson’s first full-length record read like chapters from her journal, “REBEL” feels like the complete memoir. Fans get a more in-depth look into the singer’s life on autobiographical selections like “My Father’s Daughter,” a tribute to her dad; “Dirt Roads In Heaven,” a wistful mid-tempo reflection for her late brother; and the poignant “Milestones,” a vulnerable diary entry about the tension of being a touring artist who spends more days on the road than at home. Meanwhile, the tongue-in-cheek “Southern Gospel” and album closer “Out of the Bluegrass” salute her hometown of Lexington, Kentucky.

While the title “Songs About Whiskey” might raise some eyebrows, the recording is one of the collection’s most lyrically astute head turners, with Wilson flipping the thematic idea on its head and declaring the reasons why she sings “songs about Jesus instead of singing songs about whiskey.” The cleverly penned track is followed by a pair of classic Christian anthems — “Sinner’s Prayer” and “The Cross,” a duet with Chris Tomlin the duo premiered at this year’s “Good Friday Nashville.”

Of all the originals Wilson serves up on “REBEL,” “God & Country” might just best articulate who she is and why her merger into country music is far more organic than one might think. The dichotomy of the southern belle who loves Jesus is poetically woven into the song’s chorus, painting a self-portrait of the GRAMMY® nominee:

I’m hallelujah hands high and friends in low places

Red, white and blue and red letter pages

Back row pew and front seat Ford

New King James and old King George

I’m washed in the water and mud on the tires

I’m Friday night lights and Sunday morning choir

I’m prayers up to heaven, roots down in Kentucky

Made by God and country

Wilson isn’t forsaking her roots on “REBEL.” She’s simply taking her Jesus to country music.

Album SpotlightAnne WilsonCarrie UnderwoodChris TomlinMatthew WestMusicNew Album ReleaseNew MusicInterview

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