Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Must you wear a slab of sirloin to make it as a singer?

The December 14, 2010 release of the first CD by Crystal Bowersox, Farmer’s Daughter, drew mixed reviews from the professional pool. It sounded like a few writers wanted Bowersox to transform her laid back personality into some over-the-top flashy persona in order to bring in sales.

She didn’t cave.



Good for her.

In a way.

*First single makes top ten

Five weeks after its single release, Farmer’s Daughter ranked #9 on the VH1 Top 20 Countdown.

*Will the real Crystal Bowersox please stand up?

In contrast, does the album show off the gritty unique voice of a singer who can vocally own Janis Joplin, Sheryl Crow and Alanis Morissette songs? Not even close. All singers don’t need to double as entertainers. They don’t have to fly in the air on a trapeze or sport a slab of sirloin on their head to make it to the top.

Crystal Bowersox can survive on the power of her voice and raw talent but somebody’s gotta step up and produce a better mousetrap. Give her a brand; develop her sound.

*Farmer’s Daughter, the album

Much like her resistance to bend to the American Idol elite, Crystal avoided the material of other writers. The 2010 Idol runner up wrote most of the music on her debut CD. She opted to keep her own true voice and tell her own stories.

Nowhere is that more apparent than the title track, Farmer’s Daughter. The first line should grab the attention of anyone ever confused about life.

*Farmer’s Daughter, the song

Half way to crazy, not far from sane, locks in the emotion, the guilt, the pain reflecting on the singer’s struggles after her parents split up when she was little.

Crystal is the farmer’s daughter with a personal message for her mother. When Crystal says "I’m sick and tired of all your games", she’s talking about a messed up mom. Staying at Mom’s house caused some mental and physical pain. Check it out:

I remember back in high school my brothers and me Willy put his head through the door to find clarity You’d come home with bourbon breath, Jack in the air, and when you broke my bones I told the school I feel down the stairs.

Versions of the refrain all I ever wanted was you to take care of me, make Mom as selfish as she was cruel and Crystal as sad as she was forgiving.

The farmer’s daughter survived all the struggles. She’s gained strength because she’s no farmer’s daughter, anymore Mommy dear.

Maybe singing the lyrics was therapeutic. Crystal Bowersox sang Farmer’s Daughter live on VH1 saying she and her mom had a troubled relationship and damage was done. She also said she loves her mother and that parents do the best they can.


*A cover worth a listen

Another song of note on the album is a better-than-original cover of Buffalo Springfield’s For What It’s Worth. The song shows off the Bowersox power voice. Even full out upper range notes sound deep and rich. No screechy thin vocals, just all out powerful by way of control, vocal variety and good energy. Great job on a decent song.

*Another possible hit

Holy Toledo embraces the city yet the singer wonders how in the hell she will get to heaven from her start in Toledo, Ohio. Great vocals again. This tune grates with a rock edge—just enough to grab attention. Different connotations for the word Holy add some depth to the lyrics. This song could go be a keeper.

*The meh tracks

Ridin’ with the Radio and Arlene show some potential but the few remaining songs . . . meh. Meh, at best.

One of the duds should be the top dog. Written by former Idol judge Kara DioGuardi and Nickleback’s Chad Kroeger, Hold On is a cliché ridden song she should have let go. Reeks of cheesiness.

Speak Now gives a message of independence and shows off Crystal’s acoustic guitar sound. Mine all Mine hints of that missing intimacy she longs for in her life. Mason plays some good harmonies but not much of a song.

*Buy the CD

Farmer’s Daughter is worth the 12 bucks for the few songs that do work. Buy it to keep in a collection to compare Crystal Bowersox’ first record with the platinum records in the years to come.

*For the country music poo-pooers

It doesn’t matter if she has some songs with a country sound—ever heard of Taylor Swift, Sugarland or Carrie Underwood? Cross overs (when it comes to music) can be a good thing. Crystal Bowersox can top the pop charts and sideline on the country charts.

She’s got the goods; she just needs the right vehicle.