"I ain't got no sob story to write," Kate Voegele admits during A Fine Mess, a seasoned album that owes much of its success to One Tree Hill. After joining the show's cast in 2008, Voegele tackled the recurring role of Mia Catalano -- essentially a televised, aliased version of herself -- and used the opportunity to promote her own songs, many of which were woven into the episodes' plotlines. It was an invaluable introduction to an established TV audience, one whose affinity for photogenic actors and heartbroken drama neatly dovetailed with Voegele's music. Sales of her album appropriately spiked, and Voegele returned to the drawing board soon after, looking to strike while the iron was hot. Released in May 2009, A Fine Mess proves to be a fairly veteran production, performed with radio-minded gusto by the songwriter herself and, once again, promoted by a semi-biographical storyline on One Tree Hill. Voegele doesn't stretch her boundaries on these nine songs -- despite posing with an acoustic guitar in the album's liner notes, she only strums it during "Manhattan from the Sky" -- but she does write the material herself, helming the bulk of the tracks on her own and partnering with outsiders on two numbers. Despite those two collaborations, Voegele's own songs are the strongest ones here, particularly the alternative rocker "99 Times" and the breezy, Nashville-influenced "Talkin' Smooth." Her voice is similarly competent, perhaps a bit commonplace in its soulful inflections but agreeable nonetheless, and producer Mike Elizondo highlights the melodies with tight, tasteful arrangements. The only hang-up, then, is the fact that A Fine Mess isn't messy at all; rather, it wields the same combination of saucy strut and well-scrubbed pop/rock that we've heard on previous albums by Michelle Branch, Vanessa Carlton, and the like. That's good company for most aspiring songwriters, of course, but Voegele may need another few albums to distinguish herself from her predecessors.
AllMusic Review by Andrew Leahey