Bomshel. "Fight Like a Girl."
This group has been branded a country outfit, though really, its music is rock, with the occasional fiddle lick thrown in for good measure.
Frontwomen Kelley Shepard, from Arizona, and Kristy Osmunson, from Idaho, are roommates as well as bandmates in Nashville. "Fight Like a Girl" is their first full-length album. They made a career over the last several years with storied stage shows and stand-alone singles -- a thing almost unheard of in the Nashville albums-full-of-hits business model. Tours there normally follow hits, not the other way around.
Both Osmunson and Shepard naturally have the looks and chops that commercial country values in its female artists. Besides being easy on the eyes, both women are also strong songwriters and sing tight harmonies. Osmumson is a fine fiddler as well.
However, the mix of the album is simply too slick -- all high-end vocals, snares and fiddles, with the bass and drum mixed so low as to get lost.
The vocals have noticeably been tinkered with as well, when it's clear the two women's harmonies would be plenty strong without the obvious doctoring. The overall sound would be better served by a clean and honest rootsy-rock production exemplified by John Mellencamp's best work.
However, the material -- which, save for one tune, is written or co-written by Osmunson or Shepard -- is really strong, so much so as to stand up well against the production's assault.
The title cut was inspired by Osmunson's friend, who fought breast cancer at age 26, while pregnant. It has become a minor hit, getting recognition as a modern-day anthem of female empowerment.
The lead-off track, "19 and Crazy," is actually no country tune at all, but more straight-ahead hair-band anthem, celebrating the good wild times and blissful ignorance of youth.
"Arizona," written by both women and Jack Sizemore, is a moody piece, examining the leaving of a place and the relationship meshed into it: "I'm headin' east and drivin' faster/ On my way to greener pastures/ I'm leavin' all the things you did/ the 'I love yous' you never said."
Bomshel has attracted a lot of attention, primarily for its dynamic stage shows. This album, at least, is no match for the two as a live act, with the sound so obviously bled down to make it more palatable for commercial country radio.
These women don't sound like everybody else, and are good enough that they certainly shouldn't be made to on CD. Here's hoping their next studio effort lets these rockers follow their natural instincts toward a harder sound.