Country Jukebox Jury LPs: Madeline Edwards and Stephanie Quayle

Madeline Edwards – Crashlanded

Looking at the tracklengths for the 12 songs on Crashlanded, which are around the three-minute mark you’d think Madeline Edwards was trying to enter Eurovision, or its American equivalent. The title track explodes into a chorus which will cross borders, while she notes bitterly that ‘people are famous for no reason’ and politicians are fake.

Why I’m Calling, which was on an EP released earlier this year, opens with an image of a broken dishwasher which pulls the listener in. Madeline’s narrator wants to hear the whippoorwill wind back home in Houston, so the presence of this track on the album introduces new fans to another Texan. Her voice is in the same ballpark as Kelly Clarkson’s.

On the fearsome Spurs, Madeline sings that ‘these boots can put you through hell’; Forehead Kisses has a heavy backbeat, a slinky groove and a great set of lyrics. How Strong I Am has the Ross Copperman touch and bounces along philosophically and will comfort those who are fighting through the same sort of ‘pain’ Madeline sings about. Piano-led Too Much of a Good Thing is a torch song full of uncertainty and questioning.

Madeline is wearing many hats on an album full of variety and character. She supported Chris Stapleton this year and his mix of musical influences reflects what she is about as well. Mama, Dolly, Jesus proves she can do country music with melodic heft. She wrote it with three heavyweight writers: Jimmy Robbins, Jessi Jo Dillon and Laura Veltz. Luke Dick joins Laura and Madeline in the room for the funky pair Playground (‘I’ll swing you way out’) and Heavy, a song about fidelity on which the narrator wants her friend to ‘let down your guard’.

Luke Dick has worked with Miranda Lambert and Eric Church, two acts who look as good in sunglasses as Madeline does on the cover of the album. Miranda will also note the ‘palomino’ in the opening of Hold My Horses which becomes a metaphor for Madeline herself. Elle King has an album out in January and the bluesy riffs on both that track and The Wolves (‘I ain’t scared of nothin’) would make the pair fine festival bookings.

The Biggest Wheel is the outlier, a ballad that runs well over three minutes which has some fluffy chords from what sounds like a Mellotron in the second verse. Big up to Englishman Rob Persaud who co-wrote the song. I hear a lot of Pink’s voice in Madeline’s, which might make her perfect for a vocal on a dance hit.

It’s clear with this album that Warner Nashville are positioning her as An Artist with a capital A. She appeared at the 2021 CMA Awards with Mickey Guyton and Brittney Spencer, and it would be too easy to lump Madeline in with the pair of them just because of her skin pigmentation. Ditto Miko Marks, who returns to the UK in January for AmericanaFest, and godmother Rissi Palmer, who brought Madeline and Miko to the UK in September for The Long Road.

But country music is much more than the big radio hits and the sooner folk realise it, the better.

Stephanie Quayle

In 2017 Stephanie Quayle released the minor radio hits Selfish and Drinking With Dolly, which enabled her to play Country2Country and do some grippin’ and grinnin’ with UK fans. Five years later, she follows up the album Love The Way You See Me with a self-titled set of eight tracks, once again released independently.

I Want The World For You is yet another version of Someone Like You (cf I Hope You’re Happy Now) sung prettily and with feeling. Karen Kosowski, who produced Mickey Guyton’s album, joins Stephanie in the room for Hang My Hat, a delectable love song full of rural imagery (boots, gates, faith) and a vocal that reminds me of Jana Kramer’s. We Buy Gold is another magnificent tune in praise of the wedding band, an item which was mentioned in I Got The Boy, my favourite Jana Kramer song.

The Kitchen is a proper country song about domestic matters, where there’s ‘fighting, forgiving, making everyone’s business our business’. I like the double-tracked guitar solo too. By Heart takes the motif of the narrator asking loads of questions to find out about a new crush, which is the premise of I Don’t Know About You. This is a more tuneful, more swayable and better song than that in ever way. There’s a nod to Sweet Caroline too for good measure.

Wild Frontier was put on a shelf by Maren Morris, Shane McAnally and Ross Copperman. It can’t fail and it hasn’t failed, mainly because the arrangement follows the lyric, which starts with a rhyme of ‘blaze of glory/uncharted territory’. It’s not suitable for Maren’s lovey-dovey persona so Stephanie runs away with it. Lone Ranger, co-written by Stephanie, has a similar musical palate but a narrator who would rather be single, would rather ‘heartache be my friend’, than an object of desire for some schmo. There is another massive guitar solo in the middle of the song.

Light My Way is a tune by Brett James, Caitlyn Smith and Chris DeStefano which ends the album. It’s one of those songs about being ‘tired of flying blind’, ‘holding on to letting go’ and moving on and being strong. There’s a clever hook about how ‘the bridges that I burn will light my way’ and it’ll touch lots of listeners but, like much of this collection, it’s a bit banal. But banality works in country music.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: