Very few women (or men) can pull the one-name moniker. Reba. Beyonce. Madonna.
Go ahead and pencil in Cam to that list. If country music critics and radio consultants want women to make “better” music, here it is. Cam‘s debut album, Untamed, featuring the GRAMMY-nominated, “Burning House” is full of classic country music storytelling; bold, burn-it-all-down beats; and harmonies that’ll bend your ears.
Cam, in person, and on Untamed, is as bold as she is unassuming. Her fierceness comes with a major dose of humility and the bright yellow she chooses to wear almost everywhere she goes is the only thing that shines brighter than her smile. On “Runaway Train” she sings about the aftermath of being hurt and lied to, but the lyrics, “I’ve lost control of this machine / There’s no slowing down now,” could easily be about her arrival on the country music scene.
Cam’s path to Nashville may have been an unlikely one (she grew up in California) with stops in L.A. and New York City, but the music– her music, her way– has always been the same. To aptly describe Cam’s style of music imagine the emotions of Miranda Lambert (not the angry ones) getting together with the bubbly brightness of Taylor Swift in some random piano bar in the middle of nowhere. June Carter Cash is probably there and for some reason, Ronald Reagan’s hologram.
Untamed isn’t under the influence of any R&B gimmicks, there’s nothing that seems to be backed by any kind of marketing ploy and it’s as diverse as Cam’s wardrobe isn’t.
Cam’s sense of humor shines through on “Country Ain’t Never Been Pretty,” and if the opportunity ever comes up Loretta Lynn and Mary Chapin Carpenter would be great collaborators on this track. An ode to all that country is and isn’t, there’s many a truth in the tongue-in-cheek lyrics.
She may be singing ’bout the country
And putting out the hits
But those boots sure never stepped in horseshit
So thank God she lives in the city
Cause country ain’t never been pretty
“Half Broke Heart” (originally on the Welcome to Cam Country EP) puts you right in the middle of a bar with Cam telling her breakup story to anyone who will listen. It’s one of those songs that needs to be heard because all too often people forget that even short-lived relationships can leave a mark on your heart.
Any solid debut album worth its iTunes download has to feature a song about chasing one’s dreams. “Want It All” is Cam’s ultra-fun ode to packing up her bags and heading to Nashville. Don’t let her sweet smile and vibrant personality fool you– she wants it all.
Cried my eyes out in a bathroom stall of every western state
Still, I ain’t stoppin’ cause there’s more that I can take
Got my angels and my demons and I think we all agree
If you’re gonna go for something, better make it everything
If you’ve listened to Carrie Underwood or Adele’s new albums, “Mayday” is almost a mashup of Adele’s “Love in the Dark” and Underwood’s “Relapse.” We’ve all been stuck in a relationship crying, “mayday!” before, Cam just does it with more grace.
Lyrically, “Untamed” could invoke images of Florida Georgia Line or Luke Bryan, but the heavy harmonica and what seem to be actual drums makes it different. Not to mention, vocally Cam is much stronger than most bro-country artists.
“Cold in California” isn’t a standout favorite on the album, but lyrically it shines. The first 11 seconds of the song sound like Kanye West is going to sing on the track, fortunately for listeners it’s still just Cam doing her thing.
Cam’s reaction to a fight with a boyfriend is the campy “Hungover on Heartache,” which, ironically is really fun, though fighting with your boyfriend isn’t.
“My Mistake” (originally on the Welcome to Cam Country EP) was Cam’s debut single that was gone and forgotten way too fast. Rarely do women get to sing about one-night stands and rarely is anyone able to do it so well. Sonically, this jam is as strong as any on the album and hopefully Cam’s other singles won’t suffer the fate “My Mistake” so tragically did.
Every note and chord of Untamed is interesting and full of personality, but the real heartache comes with “Village,” the story of her best friend and her brother who passed away. It’s actually sung from the brother’s perspective. Cam told Entertainment Weekly, “I wanted to write that song as what I thought he would want to tell her, and what I would want to tell my little sister if anything ever happened to me.”
Anyone who has ever lost someone will resonate with this eerie, soulful letter.
Cause your whole heart’s a village
Everyone you love has built it
And I’ve been working there myself
And that’s where I’ll be
With a front-row seat
To watch you live your life well
Looking at any photo of Cam, it’s hard to imagine her as a “Runaway Train,” out to destroy a former flame, but she’s convincing with her threats. Mostly.
Obviously, the GRAMMY-nominated “Burning House” is the anchor of Untamed, but after a few full listens of the album, it’s hard to say it’s the most standout track. Undoubtedly, it’s a masterpiece that has a real shot at GRAMMY gold, if someone can shove Chris Stapleton out of the way.
Overall, Untamed is a fine piece of work that bounces from sound to sound, but is full-throttle on the consistent, full voice of its (co-) author on all 11 tracks– Cam.
After everything that’s been made about women in country music in the last few years, Cam is a welcome addition to the band of ladies committed to making good country music.
Must-Listen Tracks: “Burning House,” “Village,” “Country Ain’t Never Been Pretty”
Image Source: Sony