Who I Am (DreamWorks Nashville)
Nashville seems filled with precocious teenage singers these days, many of them clearly talented beyond their years. While LeAnn Rimes is still the reigning teen queen of Music City, 17-year-old Jessica Andrews seems ready to soar to that royal level. Jessica's second album is a collection of sparkling, radio-ready contemporary country that should hold special appeal to the youthful audiences who are, after all, her peers.
While she sings about love and affairs of the heart, Jessica avoids ever sounding too heartbroken or overly sexy, although she does deal in a straightforward way with first love in the soaring ballad "Every Time" and the similarly themed "Show Me Heaven." The dramatic title track, already a Top 5 smash, sports a positive, believe-in-yourself message appropriate for a promising vocalist of her tender years.
"Now I Know," about a regretful lover just realizing what she's done to lose her sweetie, has an attractive pop-rock drive. The same goes for the infectious "Karma" and exhilarating "Never Had It So Good." Producer Byron Gallimore, who has helmed albums by Tim McGraw and Jo Dee Messina, provides a crisp sound that places Jessica's powerful, remarkably mature voice front-and-center.
The hardest thing for many young singers to avoid once they gain a bit of attention is being dismissed as a cute gimmick. With a forceful, agile voice - and with her skill at using it developing rapidly - Jessica Andrews has done a nice job avoiding that trap on Who I Am.
-- Mark Marymont