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Jessica Andrews

Now

(DreamWorks; US: 15 Apr 2003; UK: 12 May 2003)

Jessica Andrews seems to be the hottest “buzz” country act since possibly LeAnn Rimes or, more recently, Shelby Lynne. Having released her 1999 debut album Heart Shaped World and following up with 2001’s Who I Am, Andrews has learned some lessons in the industry. It’s these lessons which you can hear on this album, although she’s only co-written two of the 15 tracks. Regardless, though, Andrews is intent on making another important step in her career, one she hopes to be a long one. And to think she’s still unable to drink legally in some states.


The opening notes you’ll hear will instantly put Shania on the brain, although there’s a bit more to “There’s More to Me Than You”. The pop country feeling also has Andrews referring to Toby Keith, but she sounds quite pleased with the effort with a few hoots and hollers. “I believe in myself / That makes me stronger”, she sings before letting herself loose vocally later on. The song’s three guitars tend to be a bit much despite the chorus being rather catchy. “When Gentry Plays Guitar” is more of a soft country ballad that doesn’t go very far from the sort of ballad Faith Hill nails continuously. Andrews has enough to deliver the song, but overall it sounds a bit stale and early for a slow radio-friendly ballad.


“I Wish for You” may make some listeners cringe with the inane keyboards by Steve Nathan. It’s the sort of sound Celine or Faith might do in Vegas—a slick cinematic piece of music that seems far too manufactured despite Andrews singing about being who you are. The closing refrain only adds to the track’s overt glossy nature. “To Love You Once” is another rather annoying slick Nashville tune, on which Andrews does enough to get over the bar. It’s not her voice so much as the rather bland radio-friendly arrangements that bog her down. The banjo courtesy of Russ Pahl is a nice addition but it’s too buried in the mix to be worthwhile. The song sounds busier than it needs to be. Thankfully, “I Bring It to You” is the early high moment with its simple style and structure.


The soppy nature of some tracks wears thin on the listener, particularly on “They Are the Roses”, a bland and basic tune that hopes for a better way of life around the world. It fades far too quickly also, which is a bit surprising given the record’s rather lengthy nature. “Sunshine and Love” works better as Andrews picks up the pace with a pop country flavor that has a strong chorus and good beat. It also flows nicely into the big ballad that finally works. “You’re the Man (That Brings the Woman out of Me)” finds Andrews carrying a song on her back for the first time. The simple and generally minimal arrangement is its selling point, letting her star shine. “Cowboy Guarantee” is another solid number and it’s at this point that Andrews comes into her own, with more direction to the country side with a fiddle ebbing in and out of the song. The title track doesn’t come across as strongly, but is a dramatic jump from the record’s early sonic sludge.


But the sludge rears its head again on the flimsy, danceable “Second Sunday”, pre-packaged and with just enough oomph to appease most of her fans. “God Don’t Give Up on Us” is another above-average track that seems to speak about the current global events regarding “holy wars” and the environment. It’s a tune Andrews nails from start to finish, although the piano and keyboards slightly overkill the effort. “Good Time”, one of the two songs she has a writing credit on, is the second best track here, a country-oriented tune that Andrews basks in. On the whole, Now a step up for Andrews, despite some material that is questionable at best.

Originally from Cape Breton, MacNeil is currently writing for the Toronto Sun as well as other publications, including All Music Guide, Billboard.com, NME.com, Country Standard Time, Skope Magazine, Chart Magazine, Glide, Ft. Myers Magazine and Celtic Heritage. A graduate of the University of King's College, MacNeil currently resides in Toronto. He has interviewed hundreds of acts ranging from Metallica and AC/DC to Daniel Lanois and Smokey Robinson. MacNeil (modestly referred to as King J to friends), a diehard Philadelphia Flyers fan, has seen the Rolling Stones in a club setting, thereby knowing he will rest in peace at some point down the road. Oh, and he writes for PopMatters.com.


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