Carol Ann Timmel hails from New York, but her roots are in the south. When she stays true to those roots, the music she produces is the strongest of the set. If there is a complaint to be made about this disc, it’s a lack of focus. In terms of music, the variety runs a bit too wide, stretching too far from those roots. In terms of lyrics, it’s a lack of variety that makes many of the songs seem like variants on the same kind of “man done me wrong” angst. Despite those two shortcomings, the disc is a very strong one that holds up quite well throughout.
“Lousy Lesson” opens the set with a traditional, mid-tempo country sound. It’s almost a ballad, but not quite. There are hints of a more modern vibe, but the main roots are in old-school country. It’s a great tune, but is the start of those “you messed me up and tainted my future relationships by breaking my heart” lyrics. “Last night I broke up with someone new and since he did nothing wrong I’m blaming you / Cause you were the one who ruined me for all future love possibilities.” “Drunken Dial” has a more energized country sound with some rather bluesy elements on display. Its lyrics are still set in the “he did me wrong” approach. It’s all about getting revenge on a former lover by calling late at night while drunk. The musical approach here is even more old school than the texture on the opener. This is another strong number and the traditional country vibe really works well.
A ballad, “A Little Less” is still quite strong musically. The lyrics, though, are starting to seem very redundant. Sure, it’s another side of the same coin because the issue addressed here is the lead up to a break up based on a repetitive wrong doing by the man in question. “Every time you hurt me / It hurts a little less.” With “Fragile Dance,” Timmel turns in another slow paced cut that’s not quite a ballad. The lyrics still have traces of love going bad, but this time in the way of a fear of it happening in a new relationship. That said, the metaphor of a dance for a romance is a nice twist. Again, Timmel sticks close to traditional country and is rewarded with a strong performance.
Those first four tracks are the highlights of the set, despite the fact that there’s a lot of lyrical similarity. “Woulda Shoulda Coulda” is about missed opportunities to stand up for ones’ self. The music is more of a honky tonk rocker. Shania Twain might be a worthy reference, but there’s more real country here than that would indicate. The guitar solo, though, is all Chuck Berry. “Here” is a gentle ballad. It seems more folk than country, but is closer to modern pop country. The lyrics are about contentment in a loving relationship, and that change is welcome, but the more mainstream musical treatment is less effective than the pieces that lead into it.
“Near Misses” has a definite down home country treatment, but its lyrics are back into the love gone wrong school of lyrics. “I’m the right girl at a terrible time.” “Gone with All the Presents” laments the losses of friends who get married and move away. Musically it’s another with old school country music charm that works well. “Good To Us” is a ballad about a good man, taking care of wife and family. It’s another that wanders to close to the mainstream and, despite the heartfelt sentiment, suffers a bit from that stretch. “You’re Sorry, I Agree” is another song about a lover who did wrong. It’s also another that’s more in the pop vein than in country territory. Both of those aspects make it the weakest cut on show, despite a catchy vocal hook.
Overall, Carol Ann Timmel has produced an excellent debut, but it’s not without its flaws. Next time around she might want to consider taking more chances with her lyrical themes. In addition, focusing more on the country roots rather than the more mainstream pop side that dominates modern country music would be a welcome change. That more authentic country sound really seems to be her strong point. For that reason, she should accentuate it.
Review by Gary Hill
Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)