My Kind of Country

Country music from a fan's point of view since 2008

Album Review: Maddie & Tae – ‘Start Here’

starte hereMaddie Marlow and Tae Dye are a breath of fresh air in mainstream country music. The girls co-wrote every song on the album, most frequently with mentor Aaron Scherz. They consitently display both melodic and lyrical gifts, producing songs which usually have catchy and memorable tunes and intelligent, often amusing, lyrics. Their producers Dann Huff applies an unaccustomed light hand to the 90s-style arrangements.

I still like the witty take down of misogyny in bro-country, ‘Girl In A Country Song’ which was the duo’s breakthrough hit and was one of my favorite singles last year. Their current hit ‘Fly’ is a lovely inspirational ballad about striving to succeed, even at the risk of falling:

Cause you can learn to fly
On the way down

These two tracks also appeared on a test-the-waters EP earlier this year. Also from that EP is ‘Sierra’, a tart critique of a beautiful but bitchy rival set to a very pretty melody:

I wish I had something nice to say
About that girl and her million-dollar face
But beauty only gets you so far
A heart of pure gold is something very rare
And the only one she has
Is on that necklace that she wears
Acts like she’s some kind of movie star

My least favourite from the EP is the insistent poppy ‘Your Side Of Town’, which lacked their usual melodic adeptness, but it has energy in spades and shows off their attitude seeing off an ex.

Turning to the new material
The set opens with the thematically appropriate ‘Waitin’ On A Plane’, an upbeat tune about being on the verge of starting a new life in a new town – although in times past no aspiring country singer would have been planning on first class travel.

The wistful ‘Smoke’ is addressed to an elusive lover, who she believes is reluctant to commit due to past heartbreak. The smoke simile is nicely realised throughout the song.

It’s back to the comic sass of their debut with ‘Shut Up And Fish’, as the protagonist fends off a fishing companion with an ulterior motive for the trip, and seriously wandering hands:

I could tell pretty fast he had more than just bass on his mind

Oh, I was fishin’
He was wishin’ we were kissin’
I was gettin’ madder than a hornet in an old coke can
Gettin’ closer, slidin’ over
Crowdin’ up my casting shoulder
Reachin’ out trying to hold my reelin’ hand
Sayin’ I’m pretty
Sayin’ he’s in love
And how it don’t get any better than this

I said yeah it could
Boy, if you would
Shut up and fish
Shut up and fish

For a little while he calmed down and let up
But then he went right back to pushing his luck
and that line of mine wasn’t all I wanted to throw in

She does indeed end up pushing him in the lake.

‘Right Here, Right Now’ and ‘No Place Like You’ are quite pleasant pop-country love songs, which just pale set against the more interesting songs.

Much better is ‘After The Storm Blows Through’, which has a lovely melody with Celtic touches, and a moving lyric about supporting a friend through difficulties. They close up with the thoughtful take on leaving home, ‘The Downside Of Growing Up’. The deluxe edition also has acoustic versions of the last two songs.

The overall feel of the album is charming. They aren’t had core traditional country, but their brand of pop-country has a lot more country elements than most of their peers, and a lot more substance. This is an excellent debut from a very promising new act, who seem to have the increasingly rare knack of combining broad commercial appeal with real artistic merit.

Grade: A

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