Being the child of “celebrities” (be it musicians, actors, athletes or any one else with “juice”) can be difficult as you’re often expected to follow in the footpath of your parent(s), no matter if you’re actually good at that vocation. While not every child has the abilities of their parents, young Jaelee Roberts, the daughter of bluegrass maestro Danny Roberts, definitely has the goods as her debut album Something You Didn’t Count On suggests.
More of an acoustic album than a straight-up bluegrass recording, Something You Didn’t Count On showcases a very talented vocalist at work as she glides through the dozen songs featured on the project. Respected musician and producer Tim Surrett serves as the producer on the project. “Think Again,” a Marla Cannon-Goodman and Shane Stockton composition, finds Jaelee singing to a man who has done her wrong as she’s left him behind for better days ahead. It reminds me of an early Lee Ann Womack track and showcases the immense potential Jaelee has in the country music world should. This potential is again showcased on “I Owe Him Everything,” “Lie To Me,” and “The Beginning Was The End.”
The album’s more bluegrass numbers include the opener “Something You Didn’t Count On,” a song which showcases Jaelee Roberts bluegrass pedigree with the instrumental band featuring the genre’s a-list players in Grascals’ Kristin Scott Benson, former Grascal Jimmy Mattingly, Alan Bibey on Mandolin, Tony Wray on guitar and Tim Surrett on bass and Dobro. Elsewhere, the band features harmony vocalists like Kenny and Amanda Smith and the one and only Vince Gill. As for other bluegrass standouts on this record, my ears point to “Sad Song,” “The Best of Me,” “November,” “Lie To Me” and “You Can’t Stop Me From Staying.” All of these songs showcase the genre in the best of ways while also serving notice as to why Jaylee is already on the IBMA’s radar as one of Bluegrass music’s best vocalists.
There are a couple of covers here and while it’s interesting to hear “Landslide” admirably performed by Jaelee with harmony vocals from Vince Gill, the arrangement isn’t much different than the one the (Dixie) Chicks released years ago. Something You Didn’t Count On closes with a cover of Graham Parsons’ “Luxury Liner” and this one is a spirited bluegrass number and the iconic godfather of Alt-Country and Americana’s most well-known song just cooks in this bluegrass arrangement. It allows for room where the band gets to showcase their talents (particularly Alan Bibey, Kristin Scott Benson, and Jimmy Mattingly) inbetween the lyrical verses performed by Jaelee.
Jaelee Roberts is a refreshing young talent. She showcases this as she also wrote a few of the songs on Something You Didn’t Count On. Her road to stardom in the bluegrass world is already well on its way as she’s both known as a vocalist and as a member of the all female group Sister Sadie. Not only has Jaelee Roberts lived up to her father Danny’s talent and “celebrity” and could outpace him in no time if she continues to make records like Something You Didn’t Count On, be it in the Bluegrass/Acoustic music world or if she were to ever follow the likes of Alison Krauss and Rhonda Vincent, among others, to make mainstream country or Americana music. Wherever she goes, I’ll be here eagerly anticipating her next steps.