Country Jukebox Jury: Laura Evans and Brooke Eden

Laura Evans – State of Mind

I was very impressed by a song called Heartstrings, released in 2019 from a Welsh woman with a remarkable voice. Laura Evans has collected some recent songs, not including Heartstrings, on an 11-track set which emerged in July 2022.

State of Mind includes plenty of those songs. Solo, a song full of frustration and independence, slinks along with some handclaps and is a contender for Now That’s What I Call Hen Party. There’s also the punchy pair Gone and Drag Me Back In (‘grab me by the heart’), the poppy Good At Getting Over You (which reminded me of I Will Survive without the disco stomp) and Mess of Me, which was written with the great Jenn Bostic. ‘I can’t undo the mess you made of me’ is the best hook on an album full of them.

The two songs released to gear people up for the album were the opening track I’m Alright and third track Fire With Fire. Both songs smoulder like the sort of Carrie Underwood songs to which they are a homage, since Laura shares Carrie’s confidence and brilliant delivery.

Fool, written with Twinnie, is a breakup song with the same feel as Girl Crush, perhaps on purpose, with only a guitar supporting Laura’s poised, controlled vocal. The title track (‘we were high on love locked in a state of mind’) is a brilliant driving song with a wide open chorus, and will sound brilliant on radio, even if it is tinged with regret.

It runs nicely into Let You Down Easy, a breakup song with some gorgeous chords, a light gospel touch and an interpolation of The Rose by Bette Midler.

Free closes the album in the way that a barrister sums up his defence, bringing together musical and lyrical themes from the album. ‘Head held high, find your own dreams in the neon sky’ is a fine chorus and Laura’s music will affect plenty of folk who hear it. Catch Laura at the British Country Music Festival in September.

Brooke Eden – Choosing You EP

Nashville is changing, ever so incrementally, into a place where any artist can be free to be themselves regardless of gender, race or sexuality. It might not mean commercial success but it will enable artistic satisfaction.

When Brooke Eden came to C2C one year playing the part of country-pop princess, nobody knew she would one day marry a woman and be free to express her sexuality, as well she should. Attitude and Gay Times have introduced her to readers, who ought to shower her with love. Following the magnificent songs No Shade, Sunroof and Got No Choice, we get five new songs produced by Jesse Frasure, who brings his commercial touch to the EP.

I imagine Brooke is fed up of her voice being compared to that of Lauren Alaina, but it’s true. Knock and Left You For Me are both me-first pop songs which will appeal to young people unsure of their place in the world. Comeback Love is 100% Yaas Queen, with Brooke shooing away an ex via a funky riff.

The A-List pair of Lindsay Rimes (best known for working with The Shires) and Connie Harrington (I Drive Your Truck) helped Brooke write Heartless. That song could be delivered as a piano ballad but Frasure slathers it in production and Brooke strings out the song’s title when it appears at the end of the chorus. Heartless actually compares her current love to her former ‘heartless’ state, which ties in well with the unabashed love song Off The Ground which closes the EP.

She is lucky to have the woman who causes her to be ‘levitating’. With luck, she’ll be back over in 2023 to win over a whole new set of fans.

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