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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Steel Magnolia's Dynamism Stolen Away By Poor Songs, January 13, 2011
This review is from: Steel Magnolia (MP3 Music)
Prime Cuts: Ooh La La, Just By Being You (Halo and Wings), Keep on Loving You

There are some artists that just sing. There are others that put their lives on the stake and leap out of the speakers and grab you at the heart. Steel Magnolia belongs to the latter. Shedding any thread of rookie jitters, this duo comprising of Joshua Scott Jones and Meghan Linsey has that intrepid abandonment in their delivery that they are unabashedly one of the most engaging duos to grace country music since Brooks and Dunn. Jones and Linsey were first paired up in the reality show "Can You Duet?" and ever since they have had an EP released coupled with two top 40 country singles. Just like their label mate Reba McEntire, they have jumped on the same band wagon in enlisting top-tiered producer Dann Huff to helm this disc. And just like many of Huff's products, this is a slick pop-country effort with the 80s-pop being a closer sonic cousin than traditional country. Without an iota of doubt this eponymous album will be embraced by country radio as a long-time sweetheart. However,it is severely let down by the songs. Partly to blame is that Jones and Linsey were responsible in scribing 7 out of the 12 cuts with the remaining cuts culled from some of Nashville's indemand writers such as Chris Stapleton, Chris Tompkins, Hillary Lindsey and Lori McKenna. Not that theere's anything wrong with these writers, but one gets the impression that writing songs for them has become a regular 9 to 5 to them than creative expressions of their hearts and souls.

Nevertheless, not all is doom. Album opener "Ooh La La," not the Rod Stewart cover of the same title, but a Steel Magnolia original is bouncy, engaging and immediately captivating. A gorgeous ode to love at first sight; listening to how Linsey trades her piercing contralto with Jones' bluesy tenor is just a delight. The chemistry between the two really shines with the top 5 single "Keep on Loving You." Kicking with screeching guitars with an anthemic rock chorus "Keep on Loving You" is tailored made for chart success. The tempo slows down with "Just By Being You (Halo and Wings)"---it's a simple and beautiful ballad that expresses the vulnerability of being in love. Linsey's Stevie Nicks-girlish vocal curls brings out an accessibility that is just enthralling. Lori McKenna, who is one of Faith Hill's favourite songwriters, gets a cut here "Bulletproof." "Bulletproof" lives up to McKenna's lofty standards where the Steel Magnolia sing about the self-sufficiency of love.

Other than the above tracks, the rest of the tracks are either average or below. Not that they are structurally ropey, rather there's nothing inspiring about them. Just as forgettable as the titles such as "Rainbow," "Without You," "Edge of Goodbye," "Not Tonight" and "Last Night Again," these tunes deal with relationships without saying anything new. And don't expect much country in them either: sure there are the occasional uses of the banjo and steel, but ultimately they are more obligatory than creative expressions of the songs. Better moments come at the penultimate end when the duo tackled the rustic Keith Urban and the Ranch's album cut "Homespun Love." Album closer "Glass Houses" gives the pop-country template a break as the duo take on a Guy-Clark-like detour as they deliver quite a stunning acoustic guitar-driven murder story song.

Steel Magnolia is a dynamic duo. Few new artists can sing as convincing as these two. But they are let down by their poorly chosen and written songs. If they could sidestep a little from the pressure of securing hits and look more in their hearts, this disc may take a more favourable turn. As much as producer Dann Huff may be the gateway to stardom but that man can't really produce a country record.
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Showing 1-1 of 1 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Mar 25, 2011 5:36:37 PM PDT
T. LeBaron says:
I take it by your statements that you've written and produced better country music by your estimation. To call these "poor songs" suggests that you have better capabilities. I also suggest you do your homework, since Dann Huff has produced a number of country records, some of them mighty successful ones! I won't bother you with the details of the artsts he's produced; you can look them up on your own.
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