She wowed us with her vocals, made us fall in love with her spirit, and was supposed to win it all. Crystal Bowersox was the front runner to win American Idol season nine from the start of the show, but she fell just a handful of votes short. A year after America fell in love with this single mom from Ohio, Crystal's debut album hit store shelves. Farmer's Daughter was released on December 14, 2010 by Jive Records.
Bowersox was the diamond in a pile of coal from season nine. Every time she let loose those gritty vocals and hammered on her acoustic guitar fans were wowed. Comparisons to Melissa Etheridge and Janis Joplin were thrown around like rice at a wedding, but in Bowersox's case they were spot on. Even when she suffered a diabetes attack early in the show, she showed what a warrior she was by checking out of the hospital and performing on stage. If producers hadn't made it a point to tell everyone she was hospitalized, fans at home probably wouldn't have even known. So as 2010 came to a close, there was much anticipation for Bowersox's debut album. Let's take a look at Farmer's Daughter and see if it lives up to the hype.
The album kicks off with "Ridin' With The Radio," written by Bowersox. Right off the bat she throws you for a loop with this heavily country-influenced song. I was not thinking she was going the Bonnie Rait route, but the Melissa Etheridge route. To say I was surprised by the opener would be an understatement. The song falls short of what I was looking for. I didn't feel connected to it at all.
She follows "Ridin'" with a cover of Buffalo Springsteen's "For What It's Worth." Now this is the kind of music I thought we would be hearing from Crystal, and she does a solid job adding her flavor to the song while keeping it true to the original. This is definitely a highlight of the album.
I was pretty excited about the title track because I had heard her pre-Idol recording it and really enjoyed it but the album version was a massive disappointment. What I liked about the original -- the grittiness, the rawness -- was all gone here. While you should expect some polish from producers, this just feels like it sucked the soul out of what was a truly haunting song in it's original form. Now it just sounds like she is singing the song just to sing it. I don't get a sense she is feeling it in this version. Do yourself a favor and find the original version of this song. It is a bit longer, but much more raw and emotional.
"Holy Toledo" is another song from Crystal's pre-Idol days, but this time we get a pleasant surprise as the newer version is actually an improvement. This is the highlight of the album and I admit that I never really cared for the song in it's original form but now thoroughly enjoy it.
After "Holy Toledo" the album takes a turn to ridiculous with "Lonely Won't Come Around." Listening to this song makes me feel like I am watching some detergent commercial with the peppy whistling intro, drum line beat, and staccato guitar. Admittedly, the musical portion is catchy but the song is very annoying above all else.
Thankfully, "Hold On" finally gives us that Etheridge vibe that Bowersox is known for. A nice guitar-driven song with a nice power vocal from Crystal that reminds you of why she was the favorite all along. The song may shock people since it was written by former Idol judge Kara Dioguardi and Chad Kroeger of Nickelback fame. "Hold On" is another highlight. "On the Run" goes back to the country vibe that opened the album, but also has a nice blues aspect to it with the guitars.T he song falls short in terms of enjoyability.
"Kiss Ya" is another guitar-driven song with a sexual overtone, but the lyrics are just ridiculous and in my opinion hurt this song. The music itself has some good potential, a nice groove, but Bowersox failed to capture the vibe with her lyrics. They come off as something that a teen pop sensation like Britney Spears would have come up with.
"Speak Now" is an interesting song. When it starts off, you get a good "Little Wing" vibe on the guitar. It almost feels like a straight rip off of Hendrix, but there are subtle differences and it goes a different direction after the introduction. The guitars are what I really like about this song. They are bluesy, chunky, and fun. Crystal takes the song and really goes with it here lyrically. She delivers a nice bluesy performance and a soulful sound that meshes very well with the guitars. Another highlight of this album, and unfortunately the last one.
"Mine All Mine" starts off as a nice sweet love song but once the chorus comes in the song is ruined. It goes from sweet to cheesy and almost laughable and absurd in a matter of seconds. What could have been a nice lovely song turns into a joke and leaves you wondering, what the heck was that?
Not to be outdone, the worst song on this album is easily "Mason." The majority of it isn't even sung by Bowersox, and it is so repulsive lyrically that it is the lowest point of this album. Written by Bowersox and her now husband Brian Walker (an aspiring musician), "Mason" is literally gag worthy in its poorly written lyrics of how much these two love each other. This song is a good reason why you should never write songs for your partner/spouse because they always end up sappy, cheesy and stupid.
The album comes to a close with "Arlene," which has a nice, rich, haunting sound as it starts off with nice bluesy guitar picking. The song is actually a nice way to end the album. While it is not my favorite tune, it puts the album to rest properly with haunting music, some haunting lyric,s and Bowersox's ability to tell a story in her songs.
Overall, Bowersox's debut album is a far cry from what we saw of her on American Idol. She leans heavily on a mix of blues and country, but her gritty vocals are not showcased as much as they should have been. The album itself suffers from a case of overproduction. What they needed to do was capture Crystal's raw ability, but instead they tried to mold her into a pop-country star. There are a few highlights on the album with "Holy Toledo," "Speak Now," and "Hold On," but for me there are just too many low points on the album to recommend rushing out and getting the CD. If you are a die hard Bowersox fan then you will need to own the album, but if you liked her on American Idol but had another horse in the race I recommend you skip this one and wait for her sophomore release hoping it will be more like the Crystal that dazzled us week in and week out on American Idol in 2010.