Singer Cam draws this pop listener to country side
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.