Rebecca Lynn Howard - No Rules

Rebecca Lynn Howard has been the part of two Grammy-winning projects in her career and shuffled from record label to record label.  Most of those labels tried to change her into something she really wasn't.  Now signed to an indie label, Rebecca Lynn went in an

The title of “No Rules” should be an immediate indicator of what is in store on the record.  In the liner notes, Howard describes being more than frustrated with labels that wanted her to be something she wasn’t.  “Shakey Ground,” a song originally made famous by the Temptations, instantly showcases why as it literally blasts out of the record in a funky blues romp that finds a hurting Howard singing “Standing on shakey ground, ever since you put me down.” Howard turns a smoldering vocal on the classic Chips Morman/Dan Penn track “Do Right Woman – Do Right Man.”

Angela Hacker, last seen winning Nashville Star in 2007, guests on “Soul Sisters.” It’s another vocal burner and it also is one of eleven tracks that Howard had a hand in creating. Perhaps no stronger vocal performance on the album is given by Howard than the one she gives on the heart wrenching power ballad “What Dying Feels Like.”  Rather than oversing the song, she controls her voice and ends up giving a controlled, passionate read of it.  I have a feeling that this song will find its way into the hands of a pop starlet like Leona Lewis for her next album for it just has that feel to it.

Jason Matthews has recently become one of Nashville’s top songwriters (as has Howard) and it’s explicitly for the way he infuses soulful melodies and lyrics into a country music framework.  No song is more perfectly evident of this than the smoldering, acoustic track “One As Two Can Be.”  If some of the radio corporations were smart, they’d allow space on their playlists for passionate and real performances of songs like this.  Another great country ballad on the record is Rebecca Lynn’s second co-write with Rachael Thibideau, “I’m Over You.”  It is playful and lyrical, a combination that hasn’t always been shown on country radio (which seemingly enjoys a song to be one or the other). 

Rebecca Lynn Howard and her producer Michael A. Curtis have crafted one of Music’s best albums of 2008.  While not really a country album, “No Rules” certainly has been marketed as such.  Still, when an artist is as talented as Rebecca Lynn Howard is they needn’t be confined to just one genre of music.