Beyoncé drops ‘Cowboy Carter’ and hold on to your horses, because it’s an introspective, rollicking good time

They say you can take the girl out of the country, but you apparently can’t take the country out of the girl.

Houston native Beyoncé dropped her eagerly awaited album “Act II: Cowboy Carter” Thursday night, and it will definitely take some time to digest.

Part of the anticipation and internet guessing game has been decoding which stars joined her on the album.

We now know they include Post Malone, Miley Cyrus, Dolly Parton, Willie Nelson and Bey’s six-year-old daughter Rumi Carter.

She released the tracklist Wednesday which had 27 items on it. Some of those are interludes as opposed to full tracks.

And while she previously declared “This ain’t a Country album. This is a ‘Beyoncé’ album,” the new music is being embraced as country and is expected to bring new eyes and ears to the genre as well as continued conversation about diversity in that space.

But first there’s the excitement around the project itself, which follows Bey’s 2022 “Renaissance” album and comes almost six months after the conclusion of her successful tour in support of it.

Rumi can be heard asking for what appears to be a “lullabye” in the beginning of the fourth track titled “Protector,” in which Beyoncé sings, “Even though I know someday you’re gonna shine on your own/I’m gonna be your protector.”

Nelson, well known for his country music legacy as well as his affinity for weed, appears on the aptly titled “Smoke Hour” interlude where he acts as disc jockey for “KNTRY Radio Texas: Home of the real deal,” leading into the already beloved single “Texas Hold ‘Em.” Nelson reprises that role in “Smoke Hour II” to introduce track 15, “Just For Fun,” where Bey duets with Willie Jones.

Another team-up is “II Most Wanted,” where Beyoncé partners with Miley Cyrus, whose country legacy includes not only her own affinity for the genre, but also her father Billy Ray Cyrus – not to mention the fact that she is the goddaughter of Parton.

That track is followed by “Levii’s Jeans,” where Beyoncé lyrically flirts with Post Malone as they duet with promises to “love you down to the bone.”

Queen Bey also pays homage to some of the queens of country, including Linda Martell and Parton, who both also make appearances.

Martell is hailed as the first commercially successful Black female country music artist – and the first to play at the Grand Ole Opry – though she has often been overlooked in the genre’s history.

“The Linda Martell Show” is an interlude where Martell introduces the song “Ya Ya,” which she says “stretches across a range of genres and that’s what makes it a unique listening experience. Yes indeed.”

“Ya Ya” feels closest to the playful spirit of 2022’s “Renaissance,” sampling various well known standards, most notably “These Boots Are Made for Walkin’” originally sung by Nancy Sinatra in the 1960s.

Martell also joins Beyoncé and up-and-coming musician Shaboozey on the gritty “Spaghettii” – where Martell talks about music genres being a “funny little concept” that may leave some feeling “confined.” In the song, Bey proceeds to lean into rapping as much as singing.

In the interlude titled “Dolly P,” Parton references “Becky with the good hair” from Bey’s 2016 single “Sorry,” and ties it to Parton’s “Jolene,” which Beyoncé then covers with her own distinctive style and fiery lyrics.

In a recent interview with Knoxville News, the legendary “I Will Always Love You” singer was asked about speculation Beyoncé had recorded a cover of Parton’s beloved hit.

“Well, I think she has! I think she’s recorded ‘Jolene’ and I think it’s probably gonna be on her country album, which I’m very excited about,” Parton said at the time.

On “Cowboy Carter,” Queen B also makes space for newer country artists of color.

Black country singers/songwriters Tanner Adell, Reyna Roberts and Tiera Kennedy join her and another singer/songwriter Brittney Spencer for an arrestingly beautiful cover of The Beatles’ “Blackbird.”

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