Saturday, December 8, 2007

CD Review: The McClymonts

The McClymonts have been called 'Australia's answer to the Dixie Chicks' and that's a compliment - to the Dixie Chicks. The two groups have much in common, quite apart from the fact that they both feature sisters (all the McClymonts are, unsurprisingly, siblings while the Dixie Chicks have sisters Emily Robison and Martie Maguire) and an ability to harmonise beautifully. Both groups are rarities in country music, where it's difficult to find a band that has more than one woman - three is noteworthy. Both groups have the knack of producing albums that can capture a pop audience and which are an entertainment, which is in no way a pejorative label. But they differ here: the McClymonts' Chaos and Bright Lights is a much more polished album than anything the Dixie Chicks produced before Home.

The McClymonts are three sisters from Grafton, NSW: Samantha, Mollie and Brooke. They're already Golden Guitar veterans, having taken home 2007 awards for Best New Talent and Best Group or Duo, and Samantha won for Best New Talent in 2006 (after taking out the Starmaker title in 2005). Their 2006 EP, The McClymonts (Universal), was a very nice collection of songs, especially the opening song, 'Something That My Heart Does'. On first hearing Chaos and Bright Lights (Universal) I was a bit concerned that they hadn't matched the quality of that EP but - silly me! - I shouldn't have put it on in the background. Because, after about three close listens, I was hooked.

Chaos and Bright Lights is a delight. It has a well-balanced collection of tunes in major and minor key (although tending towards major, which is perhaps why listening to it makes me happy) and while the lyrics contain nothing wildly new, they're clever and heartfelt and sharp in the right places. This is country done as pop and it's so, so satisfying. After seeing the band perform at the Country Jamm 4 Genes earlier this year and getting shivers up my spine because their voices sounded so amazing together, the harmony-laden tracks on the album did not disappoint me - these gals have clearly been singing together for years, so effortlessly do they complement and match each other.

Am I gushing? Well, they deserve it. From the ripper opening track and single, 'My Life Again', through the bittersweetness of 'Don't Tie My Hands', the defiance of 'Good Cry' and 'Finally Over Blue', and the honkytonkness of 'You Were Right' and 'Ghost Town', there is plenty of scope for the McClymonts to showcase their talents. 'Favourite Boyfriend of the Year' recalls Beccy Cole at her cheekiest, while 'Till You Love Me' and 'Shotgun' are just lovely songs.

Chaos and Bright Lights has obviously benefited from the production by Adam Anders, who has a songwriting credit on several tracks. But it's the McClymonts themselves who have the bulk of the credits, and personally I like to know that artists I love are also getting publishing royalties ...

In conclusion: don't be fooled into thinking this album is all harmonies and light. There's a lot on it to love for country music fans of all flavours, and I'll certainly be listening to it over and over and over again, singing along and smiling all along the New England Highway heading for Tamworth 2008. I just wish the band would play in Sydney more often ...

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