This is all a bit depressing really. Danielle Peck seems to have everything going for her. Her looks and figure make her every inch the NashVegas ideal. Her voice has a certain dark blue splendour. And she clearly has the full backing and belief of her record company, Big Machine. What she doesn’t have, however, is the right sound.
When DreamWorks Records “merged” with Universal Music Group Nashville in 2004, singer-songwriter Peck was immediately dropped from the new country super-label’s combined roster. But as soon as Scott Borchetta, who’d signed her for DreamWorks, parted company with UMGN and founded Big Machine, he signed her up once more. Clearly, this vastly experienced and highly successful executive sees something in Danielle Peck that I’m not hearing yet. Perhaps he views her as the next wave of that wooden-legged phenomenon known as Shania? Well, good luck with that, Scott.
Peck’s first single was “I Don’t”. A plodding and charmless retread of Harlan Howard’s “God May Forgive You”, it sent me scrambling back to my Iris DeMent collection as fast as I could get there. A misguided use of talent if ever I heard one, “I Don’t” is pretty much symptomatic of everything on Danielle Peck.
And if it wasn’t, the CD’s cover certainly would be.
By closing in on just one featureless quadrant of Peck’s face, it transforms the singer into an image, a marketing symbol. By stressing the pale perfection of her skin, the red of her lips, the whiteness of her flawless teeth and the all-but-impenetrable darkness of her shades, it objectifies Peck entirely; rather than presenting her as a complete and fully-formed woman with an identify all of her own. And Peck’s debut CD does much the same thing. Reducing her musical identity by squeezing her clumsily into a succession of well-worn, tried, tested, and above all tired molds.
Her hit single “Findin’ a Good Man”, for example, is buried beneath obtrusively percussive power chords and arranged precisely like every other cookie-cutter chick rock country single of the last 10 years. “Sucks to Be You” is a slice of cheesy lightweight country pop that the likes of Terri Clark and Chely Wright wouldn’t touch with SheDaisy. “Kiss You on the Mouth” has such a clumsy title and lyric that Aretha and Whitney would both struggle to put across its attempted suppressed passion. And the “good times” twang-rock of “Honky-Tonk Time” is just plain wrong. Honestly, it makes Gretchen Wilson’s “All Jacked Up” look like a timeless classic by comparison.
And so on and so forth.
It’s not all bad news for Peck, though. “Isn’t That Everything?” is the best thing here, and although it’s clearly two parts Shania to one of Martina, it comes complete with more than enough melody and charm to make it onto my personal playlist for the month. While songs like “Fallin’ Apart”, “Only the Lonely Talkin’”, and “Thirsty Again” all benefit greatly from an utter lack of contrived would-be pop cleverness. Straightforward songs, sung well, they bring us full circle and underline the fact that all Danielle Peck needs is the right sound.