Laura Bell Bundy, Achin’ and Shakin’

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Last Tuesday, broadway-turned-country star Laura Bell Bundy released her first album on Mercury Records Nashville titled Achin’ and Shakin’. In an effort to seperate herself from other newcomers, Bundy’s album takes a massive risk in delivering two six pack albums in one. Is the risk executed well enough to make Bundy a country superstar, or does it fall flat?

The first half of this twelve song set is the Achin’ portion of the album, which focuses on some finely executed pop country ballads. The album opens with the sultry “Drop On By” which Laura Bell shows off her intimate, soulful vocal tone. She uses that tone and a bit of a soulful growl on most of the songs on this portion including “Cigarette” and the heartbreaking “Please.”

The production of the Achin’ portion is very soft and intimate. Producer Nathan Chapman does an excellent job at making sure the production isn’t over done and allows the focal point to be Bundy’s voice and nothing else. She’s rarely accompanied by more than just a few instruments in each song which allows you to image her just sitting there in a studio surrounded by a few musicians recording with one microphone. The more country songs include plenty of steel and acoustic guitar often mixed with a fiddle or a small string group.

The highlight of this portion is the fantastic “Curse the Bed.” This song allows Bundy to not only show off her sultry voice, but also to show off what could be her acting skills as she wails the song with so much pain and emotion. Accompanied by light strings and acoustic guitar, she sings about destroying the bed where the love of an old relationship was made in an effort to rid herself of the memories.

The <i>Achin'</i> portion of the album closes with “When It All Goes South” which sticks to the production of the previous songs; thus, resulting in a fantastic first of a two part album. Nathan Chapman, who has also produced for Taylor Swift and Jewel, sets the bar really high for Shakin’ producers Mike Shimshack and Kyle Kelso. Unfortunately, Shimshack and Kelso fail to reach that bar with the second portion of the album.

Although Shakin’ shows off more of Bundy’s bubbly personality, it also loses the tight and controlled production that Achin’ acheived. Lead by the her debut single, “Giddy On Up,” this second set of songs has Bundy loosely singing her way through an incohesive set of sassy uptempo numbers. Unlike the first half of the album, the production of this set includes many, if not all, instruments which have been mashed together in attempt to walk the fine line between country-pop and pop-country.

The over-production further makes a mess out of songs like “Rebound” and the out of control “If You Want My Love.” If I had to choose a highlight of the Shakin’ portion of this album, it would have to be “I’m No Good (For Ya Baby)” mainly based on the fact that it’s the least over produced of the six songs. Other than that, this portion of the album, though a tad more enjoyable from a tempo standpoint, is a complete mess. However, I have to give big props to Bundy for allowing her big personality to show through on this set.

Overall, this is a solid album. It’ll be interesting to see what songs Bundy and her label choose to release as singles after “Giddy On Up” because it’s hard to imagine most of these songs on the radio. It’s clear that Bundy has the goods to become a star in country music but may need to ditch producers Shimshack and Kelso in the future to avoid another carwreck that is Shakin’.
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Click on the link below to purchase Achin’ and Shakin’

Achin' And Shakin'
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