Jana Kramer’s inaugural country release “Why Ya Wanna” is, quite pleasantly, solidly in the latter category. Upon meeting an ex, the narrator points out that she has been trying to get over him, then questions why he’s come back. The chorus fires off this question in a chorus of “Why ya wanna / Show up in a / Old t-shirt that I love / Why ya gotta tell me that I’m / Lookin’ good, don’t know what / You were thinkin’, you were doin’…” With the staccato delivery and quirky line breaks set in 6/8 time, the chorus alone really stands out. The verses offer plenty of meat as well, with distinctive lines such as “I wish ya had on sunglasses / To cover up those blue eyes” that Kramer sings convincingly. Her voice recalls an early Lee Ann Womack spiked with Pam Tillis’ combined sass and vulnerability, and a trace of the Patsy Cline records that Kramer listened to with her grandmother. (And take it from another Michigan native — it is possible to be from the Motor City and have a natural twang.) Layer on fiddle, mandolin and steel aplenty, and the result is a convincing, catchy slice of neo-trad that sounds as much 1992 as 2012.
I really have to hand it to Jana Kramer. I didn’t know who she was until this song was released, but with just one song, she’s convinced me not only that some actresses truly are country singers at heart, but also that there is room for more than one female neo-traditionalist on radio. I have a friend who thinks that 2012 is gearing up for a major shift in musical territory; could Kramer, of all people, be one of the forces behind such a shift? If so, then I approve.