On the opening track of Under the Rushes, Donna Beasley characterizes herself as “a hillbilly singer in a town of pop stars,” but the album that follows settles just as frequently, and just as effectively, into a sort of slinky Americana territory, country instrumentation mingling with an untwanged voice that could just as easily veer pop.
As a songwriter, though, her sensibility is firmly country. On “Just What I’m Looking For,” sung with Elizabeth Cook and Tim Carroll somewhere in the background, she’s feeling a little dangerous, throwing herself into the arms of a man she knows will probably be nothing but bad news in the long term. Meanwhile, title track “Under the Rushes” is a classic story song about emergent womanhood, delivered with strength and clarity from an omniscient distance. The album’s most country moment, though, is “Makin’ Love,” on which a duet vocal from Chuck Mead proves a nice but ultimately unnecessary bonus: Beasley could just as easily have carried the song on the strength of her own performance.
Whether Under the Rushes has any impact with the general audience or not, it should be on the radar of the Nashville recording community, if only so they can pillage it for wildly successful cover versions as they do (or once did) with new releases from Bruce Robison and Radney Foster. At her best, Beasley is that caliber of writer. Here Nashville, I’ll do some of the work for you: resilient Texas rocker “Heart Like a Wound” belongs on Miranda Lambert’s next album, and “The Little Things” is a classic Pam Tillis torch song. Oh, and if Beasley doesn’t have a hit with the title track, some other Americana chanteuse probably could.
An indie album on which I can recommend at least half the tracks is a rarity, so you can bet that checking out Beasley’s previous album, Good Samaritan, just got added to my musical to-do list.
Give It Away, Give It Away
Want to check out Under the Rushes for free? Comment below by next Friday (July 23) for your chance to win one of two extra copies from our prize shelf. You have nothing to lose and only good music to gain.
7/25 Update: Winners chosen. Congrats to Joe B. and Rick! We’ll be getting in touch.