Shelly Fairchild

Ride

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Shelly Fairchild is young, pretty, and sassy, everything that a mainstream country singer should be in the mid-2000s, at least in marketing terms. If that's all that she was, she'd be the equivalent of the crass Keith Anderson -- a good-looking empty space, eager to shill for anybody who looks his way -- but Fairchild has a powerful, bluesy voice and a genuine charisma on record that makes her 2005 debut, Ride, a pretty cool little record. She's not immune to a lot of the trends of modern country -- in fact, she's not a Shania-styled diva, she's a creature of the post-Gretchen Wilson world, where female singers are encouraged to be a little rowdy, have some twang in both their voice and music. And while she indulges in a little bit of name-dropping associations -- just like how Wilson knows the words to every Tanya Tucker song on "Redneck Girl," Fairchild listens to B.B. King, Merle, and "Free Bird" on different tracks -- she's far removed from Big & Rich's calculated, gonzo hucksterism. Instead, with the assistance of producers Buddy Cannon and Kenny Greenberg, that mildly wild spirit is channeled into a disciplined Nashville production that's canny enough to keep Fairchild loose and lively, and have the music be just as vigorous. It's well-crafted, built upon a strong set of songs, and it pulls off the nifty trick of being classic Nashville product yet fresh and vibrant, due to Fairchild's consistently engaging performances. The result is a fun, infectious first album that, like Miranda Lambert's similar debut, announces the arrival a potentially major star.

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