Country Jukebox Jury – Filmore and Cam

Filmore – State I’m In

Tyler Filmore is a great performer, as I saw when he came over to the UK to play at Buckle & Boots, mixing pop covers and a contemporary form of Nashville pop music that some call country. Fans of Jordan Davis and Russell Dickerson will enjoy Filmore, who is being pushed by Curb Records as another hot fella who can bring in money for a record label making music that is a little bit country and a lot more pop but who cares, people need something to dance to on a Saturday night.

There’s lots of production on opener New To This, with fingersnaps, processed backbeats, a Charlie Puth-type melody and lots of talk about roads and small towns and throwdowns. Closer is the correct choice of single, though Blue Skies (‘me and the boys miss seeing you around’) and the Nothing’s Better (‘thought it was something’) will also go down well.

Side A is almost a suite. Listened to in one go – something I doubt many listeners will do because Filmore’s audience make playlists – it becomes a celebration of his liberty. He’s tunefully keeping busy on Busy to distract him from the heartache for instance.

Sonically, as you can imagine over 18 tracks, it blends into one another but there is enough variety in subject matter to keep it interesting. W.I.L.D. is a weepie not a party song and takes the lyric When I Lay Down and makes it an acronym, while the digital hi-hat laden title track has digitised vocals matching Filmore’s while he sings of ‘ignoring your texts’ and moving on from a relationship.  Although Heart’s Having a Hard Time gives lie to that; musically, it could be a banjo-mandolin song in a different arrangement.

Then Side B starts and it’s clear things have changed. On Love That About You, there’s a new girl who can ‘do no wrong’ and whose favourite drink and song changes daily. Craigslist gets a shoutout on the chirpy My Place (‘is your place’) and he seems to declare his loyalty on Other Girl (he doesn’t need one because the two of them are ‘one in six billion’). On Me Lately he says he is ‘loving me lately’ in a very contemporary style – lots of guys sing about how much they love their girlfriend – while the great Bob DiPiero has helped write Pictures on the Fridge, a motif also used recently by both Luke Combs and Lady A.

As a Londoner(ish), I applaud Filmore for using a trip to London – rooftop buses, Camden Town tourist tat and the Underground – as material for his song London, which makes him miss his beloved. Otherwise he is living easy, as he sings on the marvellously poppy Livin Easy, and living happily ever after on the showstopping final track Anyone But Me, where he uses jeeps and jeans to assess his memories. Filmore can sing and perform, and even though I don’t like what Curb Records did to Tim McGraw’s career, I applaud them for taking a chance on Filmore. 3/5 for State I’m In, a fine pop-country album. And congratulations on your recent wedding!

Cam – The Otherside

Cameron Ochs’s 2015 album Untamed impressed country fans. Big single Burning House became a top five smash thanks to the support of DJ Bobby Bones. It was nominated for a GRAMMY, ACM and CMA Award. Cam is very vocal about the blockage of female voices on country radio, which arguably cost her much of an audience. Now on Triple Tigers, which rejuvenated the career of Scotty McCreery, Cam told James Daykin of Lyric Magazine that life isn’t a Disney movie but at least there’s a happy ever after here.

There has been a five-year lead-up to the release of her second album. She recorded a session and conversation with Bob Harris back in spring 2018 which was only aired in October 2020. Label politics have really messed Cam around.

I saw Cam perform a few tracks up at Millport Country Festival last year while hiding a pregnancy which has led to the birth of a baby girl. I loved Til There’s Nothing Left and nostalgic Classic, the latter driven by a ukulele-type riff and which was written with Jack Antonoff (producer of fun, Lorde, Taylor Swift and recently the Dixie Chicks). I also caught her in Islington in 2018 when she encored with Diane, which received support from Radio 2 and comes in on the album’s second side.

Redwood Tree veers towards Dolly Parton (‘don’t you recognise me…sorry I had to leave’) and ends up sounding like Ward Thomas with the lyric ‘You’ll know what you had when it’s gone’. You can’t get more country than singing about your hometown or, in Cam’s case, her home state of California.

Changes uses Cam’s connection with Jeff Bhasker to unite her with young unknown singer-songwriters Lori McKenna and Harry Styles. I would love to hear their duet. Harry provides an uncredited whistle solo! The song is typically gorgeous, with a wide open chorus about love and stuff but with the patented Lori McKenna Melancholy about how when you’re young you don’t think anything will change.

Lori is also involved in the breakup ballad Forgetting You and Like A Movie, which sees Cam team up with The Love Junkies (Liz Rose, Lori and Hillary Lindsey) to write a song that brings back the idea of country music with an orchestra, much as Tim McGraw did with his recent album. As with Tim, Cam has used the in-demand arranger David Campbell, father of Beck. It’s an uplifting piece of music that veers on the Disney – ‘all the colours change when you say my name’ – which I think is what she was going for.

Another track with pristine production, Til There’s Nothing Left, involves Hillary Lindsey, while torch ballad closing track Girl Like Me was written with Natalie Hemby. That makes sense as it has shades of Kacey Musgraves, whose track Rainbow is also part of Hemby’s catalogue. Both Rainbow and Girl Like Me are pieces of advice to the listener, sealing the bond between Cam and fan.

It should not be forgotten that Cam has moved out of Nashville, both personally and professionally, so she will look to a wider range of people, as she did when she sang on Diplo’s Thomas Wesley project earlier this year.

Cam has one foot in pop and one foot in Nashville but her heart is set on a wide pop audience. Happier For You was written by Sam Smith, with whom Cam toured and coincidentally released an album on the same day. Both singers love their heartbreak songs and I can hear the Sam Smith influence in the song’s smooth chorus and off-kilter minor chords. What Goodbye Means has a rich 12-string guitar running through a song which sees Cam hope that the chap ‘might come back to me’.

The title track was written with Avicii and is driven by a woozy vocal riff and some jerky acoustic guitar. It is a high-end production and a fitting testament to the late producer and DJ. Who knows whether he would have become this generation’s Quincy Jones or Max Martin? Cam sings a folky melody in the verse which soars upwards in the chorus. It’s the best track on a very good album.

In the UK we seem to have adopted Cam as one of our own, so we’re all rooting for her to succeed. The album has enough pop moments to keep it varied – Classic and Diane both shine – but she has majored in ballads, which is sensible as Burning House is still her biggest smash. Plus, where else are you going to get Avicii, Harry Styles and the Love Junkies on one album? 5/5.

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