Laura Bell Bundy

Achin' and Shakin'

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Laura Bell Bundy is well-known as a Broadway performer, but less so as a contemporary country singer. Her debut album, Longing for a Place Already Gone, was released on her own independent LAB Records in 2007. While it never charted, it was substantial in that it recalled a much earlier era of country music without falling into pure nostalgia. Achin’ and Shakin’ is her Mercury Nashville debut, produced (mostly) by Nathan Chapman. It's a concept recording with two distinctly different reflections on love, the words in the title reflecting musical interpretations of modern country music. The Achin’ side is, predictably, the more melancholy part of the recording. From its opener, “Drop on By,” with its lilting old-school country leanings, Bundy sings in a big, throaty contralto that begs her beloved to come by, no matter when or why. It’s followed by what may be the album’s finest track, the nakedly confessional “Curse the Bed,” a lilting ballad that speaks its anger and pain with a candor that is only held in check by the instrumental backing. One can hear the heartbreak in Bundy's phrasing, which invites the listener into the most intimate of experiences. The Shakin’ side of the set is led off by the sassy single “Giddy on Up,” introduced by a funky soul bassline before being undercut by fiddles and banjo and punched up by a horn section. It walks a line between a retro look at Southern soul and contemporary country. It’s a dance tune, pure and simple, even though its lyric content deals with betrayal. The other standout is “Rebound,” a down-and-dirty sexual number that boasts of the protagonist’s way to heal her heartbreak. The chorus is a brave thing, even for today’s country: “Pick me up, lay me down/Won’t you be my rebound.” The same goes for "Boyfriend?" Both of these rollicking, rowdy songs reflect the more sexual side of Gretchen Wilson's anthemic and liberating "Redneck Woman." "If You Want My Love," with its gospel backing chorus and good-timey electric guitars, moves the record into more redemptive, less desperate terrain. The latter half's uptempo, swaggering reflection of the singer’s persona will no doubt resonate with country audiences more, though it’s the first half of the album that is more substantive and memorable.

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