Album Review: ‘Sad Cowgirl’ Reilly Downes Harnesses Honky Tonk Soul On New EP ‘Spent’

Having appointed herself a proprietor of “Sad Cowgirl Music,” Reilly Downes’ sound can only be described as emotional and down to earth Americana in her newest EP, Spent.

The honky tonk songstress grew up in the Texas countryside where she fell in love with country music, and has since shipped north to Chicago to expel her Lone Star talents. She combines the singer-songwriter and country aesthetic with a modern full band sound in her latest release, which officially dropped earlier this month.

Featuring a somber electric guitar and rich harmonies, Downes’ first song on the EP, “Dirty Love”, captivates with a wistful tone and contrasting images of passion and heartbreak. Her full and powerful voice holds aching notes of anticipation that reflect the craving of “dirty love” after growing “tired of moving slowly” in old relationships.

One might find themselves swaying to the third track, “October’s Waltz,” when hearing the lilting piano and mellow percussive beat mimicking Downes’ lyrics about the dance. This is another standout track on the EP.

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Rather than feeling “spent” after listening to Downes’ titular track, “Spent”, one might feel charmed and intrigued with her witty lyricism and sweet melodies, as she sings about exhaustion about getting over an old lover.

The intensity of the howling electric guitars throughout the fifth track, “Can’t See Myself,” paired with Downes’ wide vocal range leaves the listener on the edge of their seat. Conveying sonic and emotional tension behind the idea of unrequited love, she uses striking lyrics like “string me along like a bird on the wire” to emphasize the pang of unmet desire.

Swinging tempos and soft acoustic guitar marks Downes’ final track on the EP, “Smoke and Mirrors”, as a sultry lullaby that suspends you in time. As she sings on the dreamy track, “Rest your head and unfurrow your brow”, Downes lulls the listener into a trance with her luscious vocals and the steady rhythm.

In Downes’ own words, “From rock and roll to country waltz,” Spent is a combination of “every little piece of [her]. Her EP exquisitely embodies the sad cowgirl spirit, making it easy to sing along to whether you’re riding horseback in the country or on a simple drive through town.

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