If one wants to get a true blue glimpse of who Jana Kramer is, I've got a first-hand account. Sure, she's the actress on One Tree Hill who is beloved by all her teenage and twenty-something television fans. But a little sporting event earlier this May showed her true colors. Playing in our Golf & Guitars event in Sacramento, Kramer was paired with some executives who, in their struggles on the first hole, let loose with a couple of expletives each. They all looked at the beautiful brunette, embarrassed and looking sheepish about their dirty mouths. Kramer pretended for a few moments to be shocked and horrified to be playing with such undignified guys, before smiling and saying, "We're going to have a (bleep)ing good time today, I see." Sassy, sweet, tough, funny and with personality to spare. It carries right over into her music.
Right out of the gate on "I Hope It Rains," you get the just the right amount of southern twang to feign perfect polite manners as she's giving a spiteful little kiss-off to an ex getting married. "Why Ya Wanna," her first bonafide hit and "What I Love About Your Love" are at first impression, throw-away songs. But dang-it if both haven't gone viral in my head. They're catchy and you just can't help but hum along with the bouncy choruses. They grow on you over repeated listenings. "Goodbye California" is bouncy and almost reggae like in beat reminiscent of Sugarland's "Stuck Like Glue."
The first truly great track on the album arrives at track five on the album, a ripper called "Whiskey." "I should have just called it like I saw it, should of just called for help and ran like hell that day/ The burn and the sting and the high and the heat and the left me wanting more feeling when he kissed me/ I should have just called him whiskey." On it, Kramer has some serious sensual powerhouse vocals that are packed with emotion with lyrics that can go either pop country or honkytonk.
She continues that vein with a soft tender ballad that showcases her ability to put her breathless voice and actress training to work with emotional lyrics on "Over You By Now." Her ability to be so expressive on her vocals is her strength and on "King of Apology", the claps and the southern twang in another kiss-off almost makes it charming. "Good As You Were Bad" ranks up there with "Whiskey" as one of the album's best. Its sweet steel guitar serenades this great tale of longing of love lost.
The album is fairly traditional country production- think Eden's Edge or The Band Perry- which is pretty novel approach with a young female artist right now on country radio. In Kramer's case, Hollywood brings great storytelling to Nashville. It makes for an outstanding debut, full of promise and emotional delivery.
"Good As You Were Bad"
"King of Apology"
Taylor Swift with a twang.
Three and a half stars out of five