Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Album Review: Steel Magnolia

The second-season winners of CMT's Can You Duet kick off their self-titled debut album with some fun and catchy fluff.  Despite a title that immediately screams "ditty," "Ooh La La" is actually pretty good fluff, with a sprightly banjo line and some flirty interplay between members Joshua Scott Jones and Meghan Linsey.  Top Five debut single "Keep On Lovin' You" might touch your catchy bone at first, but the lyrically-sparse tune may wear thin after continued exposure.  But in general, Josh and Meaghan's best moments are often the lighthearted ones, with the awesomely-produced country-meets-reggae tune "Rainbow" being one major highlight.

Steel Magnolia generally takes up residence in the pop-country camp, with drumbeats and guitar licks giving it a modern and polished flair, while generous amounts of banjo and steel give it a discernible country identity.  But when the album reaches its end, the twosome tones back their sound for the soft and sweet acoustic ballad "Glass Houses."  The pop-friendly ear candy stylings lead one to suspect some Keith Urban influence, which seems likely considering that the duo covers an Urban tune ("Homespun Love") from his days with The Ranch.  Ironically, "Homespun Love" ranks as one of the most roots-oriented country-sounding tracks on the album.

The undeniable chemistry between Josh and Meaghan makes their performances a real treat, with Josh's smooth rock-and-roll baritone and Meaghan's soulful Southern drawl sweetly blending together like chocolate and peanut butter.  The album is dominated by full-fledged duets between the two cohorts, making Steel Magnolia unmistakably a duo effort.

By far, the album's most notable misstep is the second single "Just By Being You (Halo and Wings) which takes limp lovey-dovey balladry to new heights of cheesiness and pure sap.    While there are a few lackluster mid-tempos, the overall product is a fun and frisky country romp that provides plenty of entertainment for the present, while suggesting even greater potential for the future.

(Scores are given on a scale of 1 to 10)