Monday, December 13, 2010

Crystal Bowersox CD Review: Is It Better To Be Good Than Commercial?

After hearing Lee DeWyze’s album, I was a little nervous for Crystal Bowersox’s debut. Lee didn’t sound anything like the singer that we knew. Never once did he emit a John Mayer vibe on the show, but that’s exactly what his entire album sounded like.

Thankfully, that’s not the case with Crystal. She sounds exactly like the girl from Toledo we fell in love with. And though that might not get her a lot of radio play in today’s environment of Lady Gaga, Ke$ha and Rihanna, it does get us a very good debut album…

Crystal gets things off to a toe-tapping start with the album opener, “Ridin’ With the Radio,” which has a bit of a country feel to it. And she keeps that momentum going with a remake of the Buffalo Springfield classic, “For What It’s Worth.” Crystal’s powerful voice gives the song a fresh take—especially on the well-known chorus (“Stop. Tell me what’s that sound…”).

Crystal brings the tempo down with the title track, which was inspired by Crystal’s childhood struggles with abuse. Crystal’s lilting voice makes the song almost haunting as she sings, “All I ever wanted was for you to be there for me.” Then it’s her already classic, “Holy Toledo,” which was showcased during “Idol.” The song is still beautiful and incredibly appropriate for our current times.

The upbeat whistling that begins “Lonely Won’t Come Around” is a little jarring, but you quickly get over it and get sucked into the catchy chorus. “Hold On” is the only original on the CD written or co-written by someone other than Crystal. It’s a team-up by Kara DioGuardi and Chad Kroeger. I love both of their stuff and this song is good. But its commerciality just doesn’t really fit with the singer/songwriter vibe of the rest of the album. That being said, I can see why Jive chose to release it as the first single because it is the most radio-friendly song on the album. But I can also understand Crystal being unhappy about the choice since I don’t think it fairly represents her. I would’ve gone with “Holy Toledo,” since we were already familiar with it.

The album continues with the rock/country/bluegrass mashups, “On the Run” and “Kiss Ya.” Then the tempo slows down again for “Speak Now,” which shows Crystal’s bluesy side. Then Crystal goes a little light rock on us with “Mine All Mine,” which shows her lilting higher register and “Mason,” a love song co-written by her husband, Brian Walker, who actually duets with her. And in case you're wondering, yes, they do make beautiful music together. The CD closes with another lilting slow one, “Arlene.”

Although we get some different styles of music here, they are all Crystal—and that’s a good thing. Too often, the actual artist gets lost in the music the record company wants them to record and not what they should record. That’s not the case here.

However, I do have real concerns about just how successful the album will be since singer/songwriter is not really what’s popular in music right now—especially with female singers. But I would much rather have a solid album with Crystal being herself that doesn’t sell all that well than a successful album that pushes Crystal in another direction.

Maybe that’s why I’m not a record executive…

“Farmer’s Daughter” hits stores and online outlets Tuesday, December 14th. You can listen to the album online right now here.

Photo Credit: PRNewsFoto/Jive Records