Wow, have I really been waiting three years for this?
I’ve been watching Bomshel’s career since way back in 2006, when “It Was an Absolutely, Finger Lickin’, Grits and Chicken, Country Music Love Song” first hit the air. I witnessed four great songs all fail to make the Top 40 on Billboard (“Ain’t My Day to Care” got to #39 on Mediabase), followed by the sudden departure of original lead singer Buffy Lawson. While I’m a bit let down that songs such as “Country Music Love Song” and especially “Bomshel Stomp” will never see an album, at least Bomshel finally has an album out.
But is it worth the wait? Definitely.
The album continues in the sound that the early Buffy songs established: brash and ballsy, anchored with well-chosen and often female-empowering themes. The production is edgy and guitar-heavy, peppered with some hot fiddle licks (check out the wah-wah effect on “You” or the accelerando on “Just a Girl”). Kristy Osmunson and Kelley Shepard have a writer’s credit on every song, using cleverly-chosen details, unusual hooks and interesting turns of phrase, generally avoiding common songwriting clichés, even if they do manage to rhyme “girl” and “world” in no fewer than three different songs. Even the weakly-written chorus to “Just This Way” is saved by the interesting details of the verses, such as her lover singing into a “wooden spoon microphone.”
Kelley has a bold, twangy powerhouse of a voice that sometimes brings to mind a younger LeAnn Rimes. When Kelley belts out “Don’t you worry your pretty little head about me, I’ll be just fine,” you have no doubt in the world that she will be fine without him around. Similarly, “Fight Like a Girl” may have a more commercial sound than some of the other songs on the album, but it aptly turns the title phrase from an insult to a truly motivational hook. This song, which brought the duo to the Billboard Top 40 for the first time, is an appropriate re-introduction to the rebooted Bomshel.
Lead-off track “19 and Crazy,” also the third single, jumps out of the speakers. It’s a smartly written lyric about two girls who wish that they could stay young and free, but ultimately realize that it isn’t possible. It’s that realization that adds a depth not usually present in similarly-themed songs. Similarly, “Arizona” may be a fairly typical song about leaving old memories behind, but it sparkles with unusual details, such as leaving a locket hanging on a Joshua tree. “Love Me for Me” is another empowering anthem, clearly outlining who the female narrator is. While such a song might ring hollow with some other voice singing it, but Kelley gives a highly engaging vocal performance that elevates it greatly. “Thank You” is dark and moody at first, but even it turns into a well-sung anthem about walking away from a broken relationship with her pride intact.
“Karma Is a Female Dog” is a cute variation on the “unusual euphemism” trick (think “Love You” by Jack Ingram), where she refers to her former lover as a “donkey hole” who ran off with a “garden tool.” (I’ll give you a hint: It’s the no-good, white-trash variety.) Some of the rapid-fire lyrics may go over your head at first, but a couple more listens should be enough to catch all the lyrical tricks. Closing track “Fiddle” is laden with just that, a breakneck, minor-key bluegrass number about her man playing her like the title instrument. It’s easily the countriest song on the album, but its twangy vocals and gutsy lyrics fit nicely with the theme.
Fight Like a Girl is seemingly an appropriate title, considering that almost any female not named Taylor Swift or Carrie Underwood doesn’t have a snowball’s chance in Hell of getting to the top of the charts — indeed, Bomshel’s chart history proves that even getting into the Top 40 is quite a task for a female act anymore, especially something as rare as a female duo. Bomshel has the goods, and with any luck, they could be the act that breaks through the glass ceiling that has seemingly been built in country music of late. At the very least, Kelley and Kristy will fight like girls — the tough Bomshel girls they are, of course.