‘Welcome To Cam Country’ – EP Review
Cam is one of the breakout stars of 2015, having signed with Arista Nashville (home to Brad Paisley, Carrie Underwood and others) late last year and releasing her debut single ‘My Mistake’ in February. The cheery country pop tune comes with an Irish folk vibe, and it perfectly complements her distinctive vocals, which can only be described as part pop diva, part folk singer/songwriter, with an airy charm.
It’s an irresistibly catchy offering that begins with an a capella rendition of the chorus (a curious choice in any genre, but country especially), with a purely joyous energy that characterises Cam’s sense of fun. “He’s my mistake to make all night,” she sings, narrating a one night stand that follows an evening of dancing and merrymaking, revelling in her freedom to make mistakes and do what she likes because it’ll all be worth it (even the hangover in the morning). There’s something very refreshing about this arguably feminist message on country radio, and even though it only peaked in the top 60 it really put her on the map.
The thing about Cam is that she stands out, and with the increased pressure on women to present a unique identity for fans to get on board with, being distinctive but commercial at the same time is like gold dust. Her second single ‘Burning House’ has been her breakout precisely because it’s so wildly different to anything else going on right now, with a stripped back approach and a wandering Celtic-like melody. She looks to circumvent convention on several occasions during the track, from a poetic lyric about a relationship that’s going down (with her partly to blame), to a 26 second intro that simply consists of picked acoustic guitar, and orchestral strings that appear halfway through to add drama. Even the fire crackling in the background is a technique rarely employed, and her haunting delivery is just the icing on the cake. Yet, it’s currently on the cusp of the top 20 on country radio, and nearing the top 10 in combined sales, streams and airplay, so clearly fans are reacting to it regardless of whether it’s “up-tempo” or not.
The final two tracks on ‘Welcome To Cam Country’ further display her sonic versatility. ‘Half Broke Heart’ has a purposeful rock ‘n’ roll piano intro before dropping into a percussive summery vibe. Banjo joins for the chorus and electric guitars soon follow, for an intriguing meshing of styles that is difficult to describe – but somehow, still works. The lyric is also very clever, highlighting how even though a heartbreak might not be really bad, it’s still broken, “A half-smoked cigarette’s still smoked, and a half-broke heart’s still broke.” There are plenty of Kacey Musgraves-worthy smart turns of phrase in this one, and we really get a sense that lyrics are very important to Cam at a time when the focus has shifted to beats and hooks.
The closing offering ‘Runaway Train’ changes things up yet again, offering a minimalistic southern rock style with a pounding pace and driving banjo drone, as Cam rejects her more melodic tones for an angry, impassioned delivery that has elements of pop. It’s the most dynamic and sit-up-and-take-notice track on the EP, largely because of the way it draws from powerhouse Carrie Underwood, and although it doesn’t have the subtlety of her other material the change-up suits Cam really well. We all get angry sometimes (and in this case, in reaction to a heartbreak), and this is the perfect soundtrack to that.
Cam is sure to become a feature of the country genre for years to come, if this EP is anything to go by. She’s invigorating, she’s talented, and she’s different, but mostly importantly she actually has the country credentials to back up her claim. This is how you can be fresh and country in 2015. Take note, newcomers.