Album review: Crystal Bowersox, "Farmer's Daughter"
"American Idol" couldn't have invented a more appealing contestant than plucky, dreadlocked Crystal Bowersox, last season's runner-up. With a voice like Sheryl Crow's after a week of gargling with sandpaper and an Oprah-ready backstory featuring poverty, illness and abuse, Bowersox was the anti-Carrie Underwood.
Her scrappy but underwhelming debut, "Farmer's Daughter," is proof that the "Idol" machine is better at minting stars than it is at making albums.
Bluesy and soulful, with a voice incapable of artifice, Bowersox is Bonnie Raitt in a Lady Gaga world, and no one in charge seems to know what to do with her. The usual "Idol" assault of big-name songwriters and generic inspirational ballads wouldn't have suited, so Bowersox is largely left to her own devices, writing or co-writing all but two tracks here. "Farmer's Daughter" emphasizes folk ballads and mid-tempo blues, without a memorable hook or a strong melody to be found. Its best tracks are simple and sweet ("Holy Toledo"); its worst tracks ("Mason") are awkward beyond measure.
The pros do better, but not by much. "Hold On" is the requisite big ballad/exercise in music-industry cynicism written by Nickelback's Chad Kroeger and former "Idol" judge Kara DioGuardi, two masters of the form. Shallow and craven, its appeal is undeniable, as is Kroeger and DioGuardi's fundamental understanding of how to harness Bowersox's remarkable voice.
Bowersox too often brings to mind Taylor Hicks, another "Idol" contestant with a fundamental un-trendiness and a voice built for bars. Doomed by unremarkable material and an inability to translate his retro-blandness into '00s relevancy, these days Hicks functions as a cautionary tale to which Bowersox should pay close attention.
Recommended tracks: "Holy Toledo," "Hold On"
| December 14, 2010; 10:45 AM ET
Categories: Quick spins | Tags: Crystal Bowersox
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