Brooks and Dunn are gone, their continuing radio hits being a reminder of their disappearance. Big and Rich are on hiatus and never charted that well to begin with.
Does the gutsy wing of country music––the artists who sing about having a good time, getting down on the farm and the I-told-you-so of break-ups, all complete with banjo and fiddle––have a bona fide duo left?
One may be rolling in off the plains. With their debut album hot off the press, the JaneDear Girls have the knockout attitude to assume Brooks and Dunn’s place as the apple of Nashville’s eye–––but without the Adam’s apple.
The JaneDear Girls set off like dynamite on the country music scene last year, releasing the single, Wildflower, a paean to being a jeans-wearing, truck-driving, barn-raising country chick. Although the song took a while to impact country radio, it quickly became a viral hit online and its music video hit No. 1 on Great American Country’s countdown. Now it’s reached the Top 20 on country charts and more and more people are getting an ear on the duo’s inaugural song.
Who’s behind it? Two 20-something songwriters: Susie Brown and Danelle Leverett. Susie’s from Utah’s Wasatch Front, Danelle’s from West Texas; both girls met in Nashville, where they were trying to establish themselves on Music Row. After writing and performing countless concerts, they caught the attention of Nashville powerhouse John Rich, who signed them to a major record deal and assumed the role as their producer.
Okay, okay, so they’ve got one song going for them. What else? Wildflower is merely the first song on the JaneDear Girls’ album, and is an appropriate precursor–––throughout the album, the Girls offer their country-lady take on partying, love, music and men. The album was produced by Rich, and true to his style as both a producer and a musician in his own right, the style offered mixes the down-home of country with the downtown party vibe of rock.
Consider the song Lucky You, where the Girls address an old flame who “traded (them) in for a Barbie doll girl,” and “won’t get dirty” but “can do some damage to your credit card.” There’s also potential second single Shotgun Girl, in which a different boyfriend in question drives a truck that she “can’t climb up in fast enough,” and is powerful enough to make the listener belt out along with the girls.
At times, the choice of instrumentation can be… interesting. The song Merry Go Round, a party number that promotes setting the moves of the city to the twang of the heartland, blends banjo and fiddle with electric guitar and–––wait for it–––Auto-Tune. In other words, the same vocal style made popular by hip-hop/R&B artists such as T-Pain and Akon have crossed over for effective use by a brunette Utahn rocking a fiddle. Other country artists have tried experimenting like this before, but the JaneDear Girls pull it off into a spectacular show.
The album also has its slower, more vulnerable moments, though. “Saturdays in September” reminisces on the loss of a good love, while “Sing Along” expresses the strength in saying goodbye to a lover who can now “just turn [his] radio on” if he misses her. Unfortunately, these numbers are more middling–––not enough to cancel out the fun of the Girls’ rocking, but enough to subtract a few pinches from the album as a whole. The lyrics in these slower numbers are heartfelt, but all feel a bit forced, as if the duo themselves can’t wait to get back to the jumpin’ beats of something like “Sugar.”
The JaneDear Girls have the work-hard-play-harder attitude of Brooks and Dunn, the feminity of The Judds, and the (ahem) Rich of Big and Rich. It takes two to tango, and in this case, two to rock like a country babe-in-the-woods. For this reason, give them a listen–––and hope that this is a pick-up that can truck forward for a good while.
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