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Posted at 11:28 AM ET, 02/ 8/2011

Album review: Thompson Square, "Thompson Square"

By Bill Friskics-Warren

thompson squareShawna and Keifer Thompson showcase forceful and direct songwriting on their debut.

The husband-and-wife team Thompson Square share a big, hooky sound and an offbeat, arty look (for Nashville) with the blockbuster country duo Sugarland, but that's pretty much where any similarities between the two groups end. Where Sugarland draws on Southern pop and soul music for inspiration, Keifer and Shawna Thompson beef up their self-titled country debut with a Hammond B-3 organ and brawny heartland rock.

Shades of ZZ Top, for example, can be heard in the snarling guitars and whiplash backbeats of "Getaway Car." "Are You Gonna Kiss Me or Not," the album's fetching first single, owes as much to Tom Petty as to Reba McEntire. Other tracks update the amped-up fiddle and guitar of Shania Twain's collaborations with her ex-husband, Mutt Lange, while resounding, U2-like ballads such as "All the Way" and "I Don't Wanna Miss You" feature atmospheric arrangements and percussive electric guitar.

The Thompsons share lead vocal duties more or less equally over the album's 12 tracks. They also perform more actual duets than most country duos, singing to - rather than merely with - each other, with Keifer's keening tenor blending easily with Shawna's lilting soprano drawl. The duo's songwriting is forceful and direct, and their lyrics - with the exception of "Glass," a poignant meditation on human vulnerability - opt for cleverness instead of depth. This approach serves them well, particularly given that the Thompsons, whose affection for each other is catching, seem less concerned with impressing people than winning them over.

Recommended tracks: "Getaway Car," "Are You Gonna Kiss Me or Not"

By Bill Friskics-Warren  | February 8, 2011; 11:28 AM ET
Categories:  Quick spins  | Tags:  Thompson Square  
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