Album Review: Laura Bell Bundy – Achin’ (No Shakin’)

  

It’s true that she’s a Tony-nominated Broadway star gone country (and another blonde twentysomething, to boot), but don’t count Laura Bell Bundy out just yet. The singer has just released an exceptionally strong country EP in Achin’, a surprisingly hushed, down-and-out country soul collection, such as a major labels seldom produce.

Bundy earns every bit of the ‘country Norah Jones’ description she’s been selling on sultry opener “Drop On By,” but that’s actually among the less country songs here. Perhaps not coincidentally, it’s also the only one the singer didn’t have a hand in writing.

“Cigarette” and “Curse the Bed” fall more squarely in the country heartbreak ballad mold, with the singer trying to figure out how to move on in the wake of broken relationships. Bundy writes and delivers these songs with such cool confidence that it’s easy to overlook the fact that what she’s doing here is actually pretty difficult – Kellie Pickler has been missing these marks for years. Bundy sounds so sure of herself, right out of the gate, that she very nearly leapfrogs her own generation of country bombshells: the solo-penned “Homecoming Queen” sounds like a lost Lorrie Morgan hit, with a vocal performance to match.

The wailing of “Please,” on which Bundy pleads for a second chance after crossing over love’s cheating line, only serves to highlight the relative restraint of the other five tracks. Barring the total “Stay” treatment, where the only instrument is a guitar strummed by a baked bean heir in a dorky hat, this is about as stripped down as mainstream country gets. It’s all the more surprising for having been produced by Swift chum Nathan Chapman.

The EP concludes with what is, in somewhat peculiar fashion, probably its most broken, and most telling, track. “When It All Goes South” finds Bundy unable to enjoy a relationship even when it’s going right – she’s already regretting putting herself in such a vulnerable position and bracing for the eventual nosedive, with a pessimist’s (or is it just a realist’s?) understanding that good things never last.

And they don’t.

Because Achin’ isn’t actually presented as an EP: it’s immediately followed by a second half, Shakin’, which kicks off with lead single “Giddy On Up.” Fans of that single’s over-the-top, theatrical style (think Dolly at her campiest) will likely get a kick out of the second half, but there isn’t much here for the rest of us. Even in terms of passable guilty pleasures, “Giddy On Up” is the best Shakin’ has to offer.

But there’s an enormous amount of promise in the first half. If Laura Bell Bundy can find some way of balancing her slow-burning numbers without going quite so big and dumb on the others, her next full-length collection may be a great album rather than just a great EP.

Download the whole album today for $5.99 (Amazon MP3)
Or buy the first six tracks whenever you want for $5.94. $4.95 if you skip “Please.”

Comments

  1. Matt says

    Laura Bell Bundy will never win my respect. She’s just another one of these girls that wants to try her hand at country music. Why can’t she just stick to broadway? At least Kellie Pickler (since you mentioned her name in your article) has a true passion for country music and is been making a career out of it for the past 4 years.

  2. Cool Country says

    I listened to the album and it’s good but I’m not buying it. It’s more Broadway and blues than country and I don’t like her voice. The production is very good and I’m not surprised Nathan Chapman produced it since he did an excellent job for Swift.

    Kellie Pickler has been missing the delivery and cool confidence marks for years? You’re kidding. She far exceeds those marks and the dig at her was completely unnecessary unless you’re trying to stir the pot. First of all you need to realize that Bundy is five years older than Pickler and she’s been singing professionally on Broadway since 2002, four years longer than Pickler has had a music career. As a signed professional, Bundy didn’t qualify to compete on American Idol. This is her third album and 44th track recorded so she also has more experience in the studio:

    Longing for a Place Already Gone (2007)

    I’ll Be Home for Christmas (2007)

    Achin’ and Shakin’ (2010)

    So Bundy’s confidence isn’t surprising. The younger, less experienced Pickler has the most potential and room for growth, and her biggest challenge has been getting the very best of the best producers.

    Let us know when Bundy is nominated for CMA and ACM best new artist four times, delivers the performance of the night and entire year in country music and wins CMT Performance of the Year for it like Pickler did with “I Wonder” on the CMA Awards, earns standing ovations at the Grand Ole Opry and concerts, has a top 10, five top 15 and a top 20 hit singles, sells over 1.2 million albums, and completes 3 years of very successful country music touring, surpassed only by the two women getting far more promotion and airplay and headlining tours. How’s that for confidence? Bundy doesn’t have a top 30 single yet. Pickler’s debut single charted #15 on Billboard and both albums #1 on Billboard Country.

    • Robbie says

      laura bell bundys first two cd’s the christmas one and longing for a place already gone were realeased on independent record labels but kellie pickler need not to concern herself with that stuff because she has american idol

  3. Robbie says

    So laura bell bundy has been performing since the age of nine she has said that she wanted the album to be a little cheesy. She makes the country so theartric because all her fans are from broadway at the moment from her stint as Elle Woods. and second kellie pickler was on american idol… if thats what you have to do to be famous you shouldnt be

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