Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on Google+ Share on Reddit Share on Pinterest Share on Linkedin Share on Tumblr Maren Morris went from unknown to superstar with the Grammy-winning “My Church.” The song’s ode to classic country found an audience across genres and while Morris praised Hank Williams and Johnny Cash, she hasn’t been beholden to those roots. Morris sung of her own feelings (notice the first-person singular pronoun in the song’s title), but her view and sound quickly became part of a broader movement, noticeable as a series of stars recently joined her for a performance at the Ryman. As Nashville continues to struggle with the gap between the quality of music that women artists put out and the amount of airplay they receive, Morris has broadened her songwriting to capture less of her personal situation and more of her cultural moment, even as the two overlap. On new album GIRL, Morris opens with the title track, a song that hints at these struggles while offering a new anthem for anyone who’s down, but particularly for other songwriters. The single-note guitar part at the beginning leads into some strong pop as Morris questions what to do when “vanity’s my vitamin.” The track turns from insecurity to a call for mutual support and togetherness. No era lacks a need for such a song, but it feels especially appropriate right at this moment. That Morris can write to the zeitgeist without sacrificing an expression of the personal speaks to the strength of her songwriting across the album. Morris finds some support of her own on “Common,” with a guest vocal from Brandi Carlile, fresh off her own Grammy win for “The Joke.” The track asks us to put aside our differences to recognize how much we have in common, even as we find ourselves more divided. The singers find themselves struggling as the sing, “We got way too many problems/ If I’m being honest/ I don’t know what God is,” but they find hope in the possibility of common ground. The track again speaks to its moment, whether addressed to the country, the church or the music industry. While the album remains embedded in its cultural moment, Morris doesn’t rely on broad response to the time, finding space for the personal. The rootsy pop of “Feels” embraces the early feelings of a love interest, with a much more casual tone than either “GIRL” or “Common.” “Make Out With Me” tackles similar feelings, but doesn’t rise above the silly mentality of the title, partly because the singer never becomes more than a nondescript character. The steady R&B song doesn’t have a grounding; something specific about either the messenger or the putative listener would push the song beyond its surface trappings. That’s a rare mistake on the album, though. “All My Favorite People” carries a lighthearted tune and mixes in more of Morris’ wit, but it’s far more effective. The Brothers Osborne appear here, and the country groove and T.J. Osborne’s bass firmly plant the song in a rural bar on a weekend night. Morris writes of “John Prine and Camel Blues” rather than singers and cigarettes, and she and the band develop a tangible, slightly smelly setting almost instantly. With a few lines, Morris reveals who she is (regardless of how pop she does or doesn’t sound at any given moment) and welcomes us into her well-defined circle. Both personal and community oriented, the track fits with the bigger work happening across GIRL. Where Morris stumbles is less in the big picture than in the details. “Flavor,” for example, lacks appeal as a self-defining statement. She’s “cookin’ up my own style” but not clearly articulating or demonstrating it. Her vocal skill and her ability to blend her personal sense with her cultural sensitivity make her a compelling artist – and she’ll become more so as she lets more idiosyncrasy into that personal side. GIRL has broad appeal and focused moments. It’s a good album, but it also suggests that with a little refining in her songwriting, Morris could make a classic.