I'm Alright

Jo Dee Messina

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I'm Alright Review

by Thom Jurek

On the follow-up to her self-titled breakout debut, Jo Dee Messina and her production team of Tim McGraw and Byron Gallimore don't mess with what's not broke. Messina took two years to get I'm Alright to the fans, quite frankly because she was so busy touring in support of her hit record. Certainly a fencepost in the foundation blueprint for contemporary country records in the 21st century, I'm Alright contains ten cuts that either walk the line between country and straight-up radio-friendly pop or fall just to the country side of that fence. Messina has an enormous voice. While she doesn't have to stretch her contralto range much, her sense of dynamics is a near trademark, learned from the very best in the business. For proof, all one needs to do is go to the ballads, such as the Kostas and John Sherrill-penned "Because You Love Me," with its sense of restraint until the key moment in the refrain when caution is tossed to the wind and the singer delivers the proof in her conviction. The other tune Sherrill contributed to the set is the poignant "Even God Must Get the Blues," co-authored with Dene Anton. Messina's real musical companion in the tune is a lost and lonely Hammond B-3 organ -- which seems to have become a standard in contemporary country just as the upright piano was to the countrypolitan sound of the '60s -- and she walks with it, strolls with it, and dances with it through this socially conscious heartbreaker. But Messina can deliver party tunes, love songs, and break-up songs as well as anyone, as evidenced by the title cut that opens the disc. Driven by banjo, mandolin, pedal steel, and acoustic guitars, this one rolls with a backwoods back-porch vibe, and all is well with the world. Certainly the record is clean, perhaps a bit too clean, but the song selection is close to impeccable. Gallimore and McGraw were still finding their way with Messina here, and they hit pay dirt with her next record, 2000's Burn, where they found the perfect balance between country, pop, and '70s soft rock to dress Messina's voice in.

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