For Country Music fans the connection with American Idol usually means the discovery of Carrie Underwood, Kelly Clarkson and Scotty McCreery. However, we have also had the pleasure of reviewing album and EP releases from contestants who use the publicity that the show brings to live their dreams.
Kree Harrison appeared on the 2013 edition, series 12. She eventually ended the show runner up to Candice Glover and has spent the last couple of years preparing her debut album release.
There is a lot more to Kree Harrison than simply describing her as an ex-American Idol contestant. Her life story to date (she is 26) provides the backdrop to her music. She was a child protégé singing publicly at the age of 3 in church at Woodville Texas. She opened at age 8 for R&B star Percy Sledge and at age 10 was singing on the Rosie O’Donnell show. The family moved to Nashville when Kree was 10 and it was at this early age that she began to develop the relationships that form her musical associations to date.
However, her life has also been greatly affected by family tragedies. Her father was killed in a plane crash in 2001 and her mother was killed in a head on vehicle collision 8 years later.
It was her sister who suggested the American Idol route but she had already impressed the song writing fraternity in Nashville having been given a publishing deal by Chrysalis Records when she was 16.
She has been credited as a backing singer on Kacey Musgraves’ ‘Same Trailer Different Park’ album and also Eli Young Band’s ‘Life At Best’ so we get the impression that the ‘Idol’ connection maybe wouldn’t have been needed.
Shortly after the show ended she released a single ‘All Cried Out’ that made modest dents on the US Country charts but she was busy preparing for this album and co-wrote 9 of the 13 songs on offer.
She is certainly an artist who is not afraid to mix and match her musical styles. The album opens with her first single release ‘This Old Thing’ which is a Stax styled R&B foot-tapper with a mean horn section. Mr Sledge would certainly approve and would probably share our surprise comparing the musical style with the track that immediately follows, ‘Something Else’ which couldn’t be more country.
The horns are replaced by pedal steel and piano to create a retro feel on a stunning track that displays the traditional edge to her music perfectly. It’s a song that will definitely appeal to the country traditionalists but is not wholly typical of the remainder of the album.
This old school vibe is however replicated on ‘Outta My Mind’, a song that is very reminiscent of the material that Tim McGraw is currently releasing. It’s a powerful song that would be our choice for a single release.
‘Drinking for Two’ is another highlight. It tells the tale of a girl stood up by her partner at the bar. ‘I feel about as empty as that stool, I’m drinking for two’.
The soulful side of her musical personality is repeated on ‘I’ve Got Time’, a slow melancholic southern tinged song that has a very bluesy feel and reintroduces the horns.
Her take on the standard ‘He Called Me Baby’ is rather closer to the Candi Staton version than the Patsy Cline interpretation with its sassy horns and gospel flavoured delivery. An interesting choice particularly as the album was recorded in the capital of Americana, the Echo Mountain Studios in Asheville, North Carolina.
The final track is ‘How To Dance’, a homage to the Doo Wap classics that were so popular in the 50’s and 60’s. Piano and string backed, it’s a song that needs a few spins before it begins to hit home.
With the background that we alluded to earlier it would be remiss of her not to have included a song that touches upon the family tragedy. The album’s tour de force has to be the heart felt tribute to her mother ‘Wanted It That Way’.
Minimalistic and displaying the full use of traditional country instrumentation it’s a song that is deeply personal. It may also be a song that will be uncomfortable for live audiences due to the circumstances but Kree has previously said “I’ve always wanted to record it. It’s special to me and I think that it’s good to put stuff out there , even if it’s uncomfortable at times, because people can relate and it feels good to be selfless with artistry.”
She describes herself as a country singer who is influenced by Otis Redding and the album certainly reflects the soulful side of country music. Her connections are impressive. She co-writes with Maren Morris and she is best buddies with John Osborne.
She is signed to an independent label Plaid Flag Records in Nashville and this album has a lot going for it. There may come a time when she has to choose the direction that she wants her music to go but we have to say that there is a real quality to her song writing and vocal deliveries.
This is a very impressive debut album and will more than satisfy her legion of twitter followers and fans who have waited two years for the album’s release.