If this keeps up, One Tree Hill is gonna be known as the TV show of actors-turning-recording-stars.
Following on the heels of co-star Tyler Hilton (who released his album Forget the Storm in April), Jana Kramer released her own, self-titled country album last week, promoting its release with a live performance on Fox and Friends. Unlike her OTH counterpart, who was a singer/songwriter long before trying his hand at acting, Kramer’s venture into music came as an offshoot of her acting career. She debuted a couple of songs on episodes of One Tree Hill, both of which ended up charting; I suppose this album is a natural next step.
I like to go easy on debuts, simply because I recognize the artist is just getting his/her feet wet…so let’s start with the positives. Jana Kramer (the album, not the artist) is well-produced, and has a well-rounded track list that is likely to produce some charting hits and get Kramer some well-deserved attention. Jana Kramer (the artist, not the album) has a strong, memorable voice that (given time) could easily draw a fan base that is at least equivalent to those who follow her acting career. She handles both forlorn ballads and sassy line-dancing songs with the same level of aplomb. So that’s good.
Having said that, there are a couple of things about the album that I really wish were different. First—and you can write this off as personal taste, if you like—the record isn’t country enough. Like so many other recent releases, this album ventures so far into the pop category that Kramer sounds more like a pop singer trying to sound country. (And make no mistake—singing in a drawl and sprinkling a little banjo into the mix does not make it country). Nothing wrong with pop music—just don’t try to tell me it’s country. Just saying.
Second—I feel that Jana Kramer (the album, not the artist) doesn’t really help establish Jana Kramer (the artist) as a unique performer with something to say. More or less, it sticks to formulas targeted directly at country music consumers, no doubt to try and sell records. As a result, it sounds a bit too much like everything else that’s on the market right now. (In fact, the rhythm, handclaps and some of the vocal riffs on “Goodbye California” sound like they were stolen outright from Sugarland’s “Stuck Like Glue.”) This tactic might sell a few records, but it isn’t going to do a thing to separate Kramer from the rest of the pack.
So taking the good with the bad, Jana Kramer (the album AND the artist) have a lot of potential. For the album, we must admit that said potential will remain unmet—it is what it is. For the artist—let’s just say Kramer put enough of herself on this record to make me hopeful that there’s a lot more where that came from. It’s worth finding out what comes next.
ALBUM RATING: 3 Stars (out of five)