Look out, Miranda. We've got three crazy ex-girlfriends in this band, and they're sisters to boot, with backing like Nathan Chapman (Taylor Swift's producer) and Adam Anders (Glee music producer). The trio of sisters have shaken things up in Australia, outselling even our most famous folk (such as Kenny Chesney & Tim McGraw), and they are looking to shake things up here the the U.S., following in the footsteps of fellow Aussies Keith Urban and Jamie O'Neil. This is their second album released in the states, and a fabulous one it is, with its interesting mix of plastic, wood, and steel. They could be the next big thing, if they release the right songs to radio and don't make any silly "Ooops, I didn't mean to say that"-mistakes, like, ahem, another blonde-led trio.
Brooke and Samantha pass around lead vocals, with Brooke leading the pack with five songs and Samantha having two, with the remaining songs with Brooke, Sam, and Mollie. Brooke has a snappy, clean and crisp, popular sound to her voice - a little Jennifer Nettles, a little of her own vibrations. Samantha has more of a folky, Allison Kraussian note to her voice, opening up "Take it Back" beautifully - simply a lovely song and the perfect voice to do it.
The album kicks it up with two bouncy party songs from the get-go. Let's hope they don't release these, as we have all had our fill of Gretchen Wilson and even Carrie Underwood party songs. If they release either of these to radio, we won't hear from them again. Wrapped Up Good has the poppy Taylor Swift sound going for it, but the lyrics just don't cut it. One particularly trite line bursts out, "Your love is better than the weather out in Hollywood." Luckily, this song is catchy and clear throughout, so it works on the album, so long as they don't send it to radio. Please, y'all, I love this album. Don't send this one to radio!
The third track, "He Used to Love Me," draws on the Taylor Swift, Kellie Pickler, and Miranda Lambert crazy silliness. The best part comes when the introduction, in slow movements, switches over to light-hearted gaity. Man, oh, man, the hopelessness of the narrator of that song - priceless, fabulous - radio-worthy. It is the only song on the album which doesn't have a big name on the by-line. This Matt Nolan has yet to do something exciting. Maybe this song is it.
"Boy Who Cried Love" is fast and fun and sounds a lot like a Taylor Swift song (and was, indeed, produced by Taylor's Nathan Chapman). There are some weird sounds going on intermittently throughout the song which make me question it's "country-ness," but I'll give 'em the benefit of the doubt. Them crazy Aussies tend to have a bit of rock and roll in their country.
"Rock the Boat" - rocky, hip, catchy but a little annoying. One of the rhymes is "go" with "oh, oh, oh." You get my drift.
"I'm Not Done with You Just Yet" - pretty fun; All three sisters lead this one and wrote it, along with Leslie Satcher, writer of Kellie Pickler's "Tough" and George Strait's "Troubadour." They got out the big guns for this one. This song would kill on country radio. It's got a jazzy, old-time country opener, re-popularized by Miranda in her "Only Prettier." I had this song stuck in my head for hours today, and I was not unhappy about it. That's a good song - or at the very least, a successful song! It doesn't have staying power or anything, but play this on the radio for a few months, then add a new single like "He Used to Love Me," and you should stick around for another popular album.
"A Woman is a Flame" This one takes a while to get going, with a long intro that sounds a lot like Garth Brooks' "I Will Sail My Vessel." It's quiet and slow, with strong piano and deep harmony, which mixes well with the strings.
"Hearts on Fire" - All 3 sisters and Patrick Davis (writer of Jason Michael Carroll's "Where I'm From" and Lady A's "The Woman Makes the Man") wrote this one together. Lead vocals breathily keep you interested in the album, and it's one of the few songs on the album singing of marriage. Hey, it even quotes some of the big guys, giving props to popular singers before them: Lady Antebellum - I'll Run to You, close enough to Willie's "Always on my Mind" -You're On My Mind, and John Michael Montgomery's Comin' "Home to You." Whether intentional or not, the lovely country music literary tradition sticks out all over the place in this album.
"If You're Gonna Love Me": Adam Anders & Tommy Lee James wrote this one, Anders - Glee Music Producer. They've got the names, the song's nothing excitingly special, but it's a foot-tapper and all - traditional country sound. I'd love to two-step to this one. So, I don't know about radio, but I hope they play this one live a lot.
"I Could be a Cowboy" This one's another Nathan Chapman hit. Really, their input from Taylor's producer did nothing but good for 'em. Thankfully, the McClymonts have their own sound, following a much more traditional model of country singin', so we don't have just more Taylor Swift stuff. We've got songs far beyond the teen angst, but with a similar style and power of honesty. Instant. Radio. Hit. "I could be a cowboy, but I don't like to be alone." I think that line alone could sell this album.
"Cannonball" has a very southern country rock sound, with a surprising nod to the Lila McCann style. Remember her? I'd forgotten her. What a nice reminder.
So, let's get down to it, shall we? Is this a good album? Absolutely. Should you go out and buy the album? Definitely. Or come over to my house and listen to it, then go buy it, since you'll want to listen to these songs over and over. The McClymonts' traditional sounds and real live musical instruments in the background show us that Australia really has a buncha country talent, and we need to step up and notice.
Four stars out of five.