Chalee Tennison

Parading in the Rain

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Chalee Tennison's third full-length (and first for DreamWorks) is firmly, proudly contemporary country -- its hints of pedal steel and rootsy acoustic strum only surface in relation to lush, tasteful arrangements. But this straightforward sound is perfect for the husky-voiced Tennison, since her fiercely honest lyrics are Parading in the Rain's true focus. In "Me and Mexico," she makes the country's simple pleasures proud accessories to a final breakup. "I bought a big sombrero and it made me laugh," "I drank some tequila/I said 'Who needs ya?'" -- the electric feelings of freedom Tennison gives these lines is incredible. She's just as confident with slower, more introspective material. The brooding, largely acoustic "Mind of This Woman" is one of the album's emotional touchstones; in it, Tennison's detailed description of the painful piling up of everyday events and chores makes the memory of a brief romantic respite that much more heartening. Other highlights include the self-confident title track and the first single, "Lonesome Road," which lets Tennison loosen up with its rollicking banjo and fiddle. Contemporary and pop-country artists too often coast on easy elements of image and cliché, so it's refreshing to see Chalee Tennison building bridges between the bright footlights and the human heart.

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