Three years after her second solo album, one-time teen singer-songwriter Michelle Branch has joined with her former backup singer Jessica Harp to create a modern pop-country duo, The Wreckers.
The melodic, harmony-rich sound crosses the Dixie Chicks and Sheryl Crow for a smart, roots-based sound built around the duo's well-written tunes.
Branch was 17 when she released her first hit, "Everywhere." Five years later, she's still concentrating on songs about identity, emotional entanglements and making it clear on why she's leaving a relationship or what its going to take to get her to stay.
Pairing with Harp, who had pursued a solo country career until Branch offered to form a duo, The Wreckers merge the traditional and contemporary by seamlessly blending bluegrass instruments such as fiddles, mandolins and acoustic guitars with gently rockin' accents of slide guitar and pulsing rhythms.
Songs like "Leave the Pieces," "The Good Kind" and the title cut deal, not surprisingly, with young women frustrated by lovers and those who would stereotype them or dismiss their ambitions or emotions. Branch's husky voice is effectively expressive, and the harmonies are richly beautiful.
Hopefully, The Wreckers subtle but undeniable strengths will be powerful enough to tear down walls between country and pop.
By Michael McCall