With their fresh-faced good looks and catchy pop hooks, Jypsi is poised to catapult to commercial country stardom. At first glance, this collection of toothsome youngsters can easily be confused for some of those other mixed-gender pop-country bands out there. But unlike most of those bands (Little Big Town and Lady Antebellum, I’m looking in your schlocky direction), Jypsi is actually quite talented. The four siblings (Lillie Mae, Amber-Dawn, Scarlett, and Frank) have been performing together for over a decade, quite a feat considering that the youngest of the bunch is only 16.
Jypsi begins with “Now That’s All Right With Me”, an asinine but infectious number that has the potential to be a chart climber as well as a fixture on your “Guilty Pleasure” playlist. It seems that “asinine, but infectious” are the words of the day on this record, because following “Now That’s All Right With Me” is “Love Is a Drug”: again, wholeheartedly dumb, but catchy, and really, isn’t that the purpose of pop music in the first place? After this are two songs that sound exactly alike, “I Don’t Love You Like That” and “You Don’t Know What Real Love Is”. Both feature tight Wreckers-ish harmonies, but are otherwise musically boring and lyrically hamfisted.
There are several missteps on this album, though none more egregious than the absolutely abysmal cover of “House of the Rising Sun”, a classic that’s near-impossible to ruin. But Jypsi finds a way, thanks to lead singer Lillie Mae, who seems uncomfortable with the lyrics; technically her singing is very nice, but she doesn’t put any emotion into a song that calls for nearly inhuman amounts of pathos. Another one that should have been left off the record is “I Do What I Want”, a song that shoots for sassy girl power but lands on sheer obnoxiousness: “I might look like a pretty little kitty / But I’m a wildcat inside / I may purr and let you pet / But remember that I bite.” It sounds like bad SheDaisy, and by “bad SheDaisy”, I mean “worse SheDaisy”.
The underused Frank is trotted out for token religious number “Stray Dogs and Alley Cats”, then again relegated to harmonizing and playing rhythm guitar. On the other hand, lyrics like these are damn near intolerable, no matter who’s singing them: “I don’t expect to sit at God’s right hand / But I could empty Heaven’s garbage cans / Oh, Lord, hope there’s room on those golden streets / For stray dogs and alley cats like me.” Haven’t the kids of Jypsi seen All Dogs Go to Heaven? Of course there’s room! Then again, the songwriter of this one might have to spend an extra couple days in Purgatory.
The highlight of the album is “Halfway Home Cafe”, a song in the vein of Porter Wagoner’s “My Many Hurried Southern Trips”. Here, a waitress observes various down on their luck folks, including a just-released prisoner and a just-dumped mistress. Lillie Mae’s vocals on this track fit right in with the world-weariness of the song, and the siblings chime in with some solid playing. Overall, Jypsi could’ve used a few more like this and a few less like “I Do What I Want”.
The album ends with a bang on “Kandi Kitchen”, a high-speed instrumental number featuring some of the best pickin’ commercial country music has seen since the Dixie Chicks took a ride on their sin wagon. While some of their songs are just the same derivative mess spewed out by the pop country industry, “Kandi Kitchen” separates Jypsi from their competition. Overall, this is a mixed debut from a remarkably young group that we’re sure to hear a lot of in the near future.