That Girl by Jennifer Nettles

What happens when duos spend some time apart? Can Jennifer Nettles be a viable country star without Sugarland partner Kristian Bush?

Jennifer wisely sidestepped those questions for her solo album That Girl, recording in California with Rick Rubin and some West Coast session pros instead of staying in Nashville.

The resulting album is earthy, warm and spacious, not sounding too fussed over or suffocated with studio tricks. You can hear the players actually using their instruments on “Jealousy,” a delightfully catchy and funny poison arrow aimed at the perfect girl who got the perfect boy.

Stylistically, That Girl has plenty to offer: the acidic, fame-in-the-information-age rockabilly scorcher “Don’t You Wanna Know”; the hopeful, slow-building “Me Without You”; or the Latin-flavored cheating saga in the title track—the album’s first single.

Jennifer’s voice is undoubtedly the star of the show throughout. She’s dialed back the twang for something that sounds Southern but no longer over-the-top, and she belts with the best of them. A couple songs—like “Thank You”—are pleasant enough but don’t linger.

The biggest surprise might be the cover of Bob Seger’s “Like a Rock,” which gets a Muscle Shoals makeover with electric piano and horns. It’s affirming and arresting, and won’t leave you thinking about Chevy trucks.

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