Posted on 20 July 2008 by Bill West
The new Sugarland song came on in the truck over the weekend – I was driving with my seven year old son, Jack, in the back seat. He doesn’t usually pay much attention to Dad’s radio… But two minutes in I heard him singing “wanna doo – uh – ooh ooh ooh – ahwoo – uh -ooh ooh ooh.” I even woke the next morning singing it on my way to the shower. Hard to deny a hook like that.
Jennifer Nettles and Cristian Bush have created something fairly unusual in Country Music these days. They have segued from a folkie new country trio into a CMA Award winning superstar duo with a Pop appeal. Seems like they’ve become overnight successes but in reality have been pluggin away for awhile. It’s been years since they’ve worked the small clubs in the SouthEast seperately with The Jennifer Nettles Band and Billy Pilgrim (Google ‘em). The new cd “Love On The Inside” showcases Nettles strong vocal presence and also keeps Bush’s sidekick additions up front. In fact, both Nettles and Bush co wrote every song on their third cd. A admirable feat even if they enlisted third writers on many track. They produced a dozen tracks (17 on the “Deluxe Fan Edition out 7/22) that deliver on all their core fan’s expectations.
Nettles and Bush could have easily taken the
new cd’s sound towards pop or too folk rock but they did a fantastic job of blossoming their unique gifts and perspective and make it mainstream country. Radio programmers will like it and they are sure to have two more years of radio success to fuel their A List headlining concerts (with some strong openers they should continue to be able to fill 7000 + seat areas). Sugarland Kicks off a 25 city tour with Kellie Picker and Ashton Shepherd on July 22nd).
Most are already infected with the pure pop debut single “All I Want To Do” that leads one to think the whole CD will be kind of bubblegum and a bit too pop. Not true. All I Want To Do was a smart but daring choice for their return. It just sounds different than most songs on the radio. But me and my son can attest… it gets in your head.I love the fact that there are artists in country still stepping out and being big performer if a little different. I remember thinking the same thing when Nettles performed on stage at the awards shows with Bon Jovi. It would have been easy for her to play second fiddle to someone like that and be safe. Instead she worked the vocals… worked the stage and looked WAY more fun than BonJovi. She sells it with fearless performances. Did the same thing on their recent headlining tour.Bush has a strong presence in the duo’s make up too. Don’t count him out. On-stage he pumps up the energy… and on the new cd his plucky mandolin adds to their signature sound.
There is some hard core solid songwriting here too. The lead single is followed by another potential single “It Happens” that sounds like mainstream country fun.”We Run” launches into a very bluegrass sound. Listen for “Joey” (co written with Bill Anderson) featuring some fantastic lyrics and has more of the folkie rock REM sound they really works and “Love with” a U2 sounding riff throughout.Other tracks include a barn-burning funny “Steve Earl” kinda tribute song that is undeniably country. The album is capped off perfectly with a “Very Last Country Song,” a potential radio hit. The bands website explains: Co-writer Tim Owens told the duo that someone had once asked him why country music was always so sad. Owens’ answer was that if bad things never happened, then what would we have to write about? “Last Country Song” explores that thought with another stripped down performance reminiscent of mega hit “Stay.”
Overall Grade: B+
Don’t Miss: “All I Want To Do” and five bonus tracks on the Delue Fan Edition. This – for now – is the only place to get their live “Life In A Northern Town” (with 07 tourmates) and the live “Come On Get Higher”
Fast Forward: “Genevieve” misses the mainstream mark but fine as an album cut.