The voice was never in question. A self-professed country girl, Jessica Simpson’s sincerity with her cross-over into country music was. Jessica’s well-publicized celebrity was bound to draw major concerns from country music fans that guard their favorite genre with all they can. These are a loyal group of fans and they don’t take too kindly to outsiders. So, when listening to “Do You Know,” the quickest thing was to see how ‘country’ she would get. If someone’s idea of country music is what’s currently played on the radio then she is country to the bone. If somebody’s idea of country is even based in the 1990′s then it’s more pop with a bit of fiddle and steel guitars than anything else.
Ok, now that the context of the album and its production is out of the way, it’s time to speak about the songs, of which Jessica’s name is attached to all but three of them. “Come On Over” barely peaked inside the Top 20 at country radio but it gave country fans something to like about her. “Remember That” is written by Victoria Banks and Rachel Proctor and it’s about a abused and beaten down woman who constantly takes in the man who is doing all of that stuff to her. It’s a song that is completely about standing up to domestic violence and how the woman needs to break the cycle. “Pray Out Loud” tugs at the heart strings of the country music base as Simpson sings a lot like Faith Hill. Co-written with Brett James and John Shanks, the song is sonically pleasing and simply states that ‘when you’re down, don’t be afraid to pray out loud.’
“Your My Sunday” starts of with a promising soft verse but then blasts into full-blown divadom in the chorus as Jessica sings about not wanting to go anywhere because her man ‘is her Sunday.’ With delicate mandolin and violin melodies backing up “Sipping On History,” Simpson has a vocal here that really recalls parts of Pam Tillis’ vocals (until the chorus) and it’s no coincidence that this song happens to strike me as the best of the songs on the record. “Still Beautiful” is an inoffensive pop song (it really could’ve been on any of her records and could actually get her back on the pop charts) while “When I Loved You Like That” and “Might As Well Be Making Love” are the big radio-ready power ballads people expected to hear all over this record (that thankfully isn’t). Dolly Parton’s “Do You Know” ends the record and it finds two diva’s singing together like all is well with the world. Lyrically, the song is strong due to Dolly’s gift of phrase and melody.
When it was announced that Jessica Simpson would be making a country record, I had assumed that it’d come out a lot like it has. It has its charms and it will succeed but at the same time, it would have been nice if Jessica would’ve sung a little bit more level instead of hitting ‘diva’ mode the way that Carrie Underwood and Rascal Flatts’ Gary LeVox often do. It’s the biggest problem in the music world these days. Just because one can sing like that doesn’t mean they always should.