In the last few years, country has been feeling like a homegrown genre again – after well over two decades of being about as internationally mainstream as it gets – and the biggest reason why has been young indie acts like Lan Law. Lan Law has a lot in common with some of the more retro-minded country bands that came before them in the Nashville underground aesthetically, but as far as their delivery is concerned, they’re a melodic country group whose scene has been on the cusp of something really special for about a year now. This band’s new single, the playful “Hillbilly Legal,” is a stab at old-school country dynamics, and it just might be my favorite track of the season so far.
The mix here is pretty rigidly arranged, but I do think this was necessary for us to appreciate all of the detail it contains. There’s scarcely a moment in which we’re trying to peer through a muddy melodic smokescreen; in fact, there’s often more of a shimmer thanks to the varnish in this song than there is any natural reverberation (which can be both a positive and a negative feature depending on your perspective). In my view, the sterile bottom-end and sleekly-designed equalization are important ingredients in what ultimately adds up to a recipe for success for Lan Law, and in the end, it’s going to translate into a wider reach as they appeal to audiences around the world over the next few months.
As much as I like the swing of the groove in this track, the harmony between the vocals and the strings is what makes “Hillbilly Legal” a true hit. The fact of the matter is that there are moderate Americana sensibilities in this single other indie acts just aren’t embracing in 2023, whether that be a hangover from the lean hooks of the late 2000s and mid-2010s or simply a desire to step away from the alternative country songwriting popularized back in 2010 is up to debate among critics and fans the same. The bottom line? Lan Law has a good handle on what not to do in this single, and their muscle flexing is showing us just how much depth they have as a group.
I haven’t been very impressed with most of the music I’ve heard coming out of the underground in 2023, but if you’re in the mood for something from that neck of the woods that will hit the spot in the country department, Lan Law is the band you need to be paying attention to more than anyone else this year. “Hillbilly Legal” picks up where some of the more ambitious works of the previous movement left off back, and if it’s painting us a proper picture of who Lan Law is in the process of becoming, it’s going to be but the first of many hits they turn in as the next year comes into focus. Hands-down a terrific listen, indie country fans really can’t go wrong with “Hillbilly Legal.”