Singer Cam draws this pop lis­tener to coun­try side

Cecil Whig - - ACCENT -

Coun­try mu­sic and I have an un­easy truce.

I agree to ac­knowl­edge a few tal­ented per­form­ers, and it agrees to keep its mu­sic to its own ra­dio sta­tions. I don’t like twang. I think the en­tire genre is a lit­tle too soaked in beer and heartache for me to re­spect it.

But a tune like “Burn­ing House” by Cam is one I just have to lis­ten to. Half fu­neral dirge, half lul­laby, the song laments the crum­bling of a re­la­tion­ship and likens it to a house burn­ing down. It’s only in her dreams that the singer can still hold her lover tight and re­mem­ber their love as it once was. The song’s spare acous­tic ar­range­ment and ar­rest­ing lyrics cap­ture the tor­ment of breakups per­fectly. The song was so pop­u­lar, it went on to re­ceive a Grammy nom­i­na­tion and was the best-sell­ing sin­gle by a coun­try fe­male in 2015. There’s def­i­nitely some­thing to this girl and her mu­sic.

Cam’s de­but al­bum “Un­tamed” is a les­son in va­ri­ety and bold­ness. She sits on the front cover with a straw stuck right into a le­mon. In the liner notes she ex­plains, “When life hands you lemons – don’t you dare wa­ter it down and sweeten it up. You grab a straw and drink it straight. Then there is noth­ing left to fear and you can truly be free. (And don’t for­get to be nice, since we all are deal­ing with our own lemons.)”

It proves to be very prophetic – noth­ing about the al­bum is wa­tered down or sweet­ened up. She tells is like it is, and some­times it ain’t pretty.

The end­lessly fun epony­mous opener catches you with a har­mon­ica riff and an in­vi­ta­tion to live with­out in­hi­bi­tion. It’s the per­fect sum­mer bat­tle cry – cut­ting loose from work, school and the ex­pec­ta­tions of oth­ers. That’s quickly fol­lowed by a more ex­pected re­gret-filled ditty called “Hun­gover on Heartache,” which seam­lessly blends pop and coun­try in a very Tay­lor Swift–es­que style.

Her voice is some­where between Patsy Cline (whom she calls a deep in­flu­ence) and Tr­isha Year­wood, but her sen­si­bil­i­ties are en­tirely mod­ern, and not a lit­tle in­flu­enced by the Top 40 mu­sic scene. This, per­haps, is why I en­joy her mu­sic the most, it’s re­fresh­ing, fun, and light hearted. It never takes it­self too se­ri­ously and al­ways has a great hook.

One of my fa­vorites here is a barn-burner called “Run­away Train.” It just crack­les with right­eous vengeance. The gui­tar and drums race along at break­neck speed and you start to hear her really flex her vo­cal mus­cles. And yet, if you stripped away a bit of the pro­duc­tion value, it could have just as eas­ily been a June Carter Cash song from 50 years ago.

Like­wise, if you tweaked the in­stru­ments a bit on the lovely “Cold in Cal­i­for­nia,” you could eas­ily mis­take it for a song you might here on main­stream ra­dio. It’s a great bal­lad about lov­ing peo­ple enough to al­low them to leave and pur­sue their dreams.

The al­bum closes with a song that seems re­flec­tive of the feel­ings of moth­er­hood (though she’s not a mother yet). En­ti­tled “Vil­lage,” it’s an ex­pan­sion of the idea that “it takes a vil­lage to raise a child.” She croons “Your whole heart’s a vil­lage / Ev­ery­one you love has built it / And I’ve been work­ing there my­self/ That’s where I’ll be, with a front row seat / To watch you live your life well.”

It’s great writ­ing from an ex­cit­ing new voice in the mu­sic world. Enough to pull even a bonafide pop girl like my­self over to the coun­try side.

Jill Cluff is a some­times li­brar­ian who is mar­ried to one gi­ant and mom to two boys. She loves all things book- and food-re­lated – of­ten at the same time.

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