The old adage “don’t judge a book by its cover” certainly applies to Cheryl Deseree’s latest release. With purple hair and a pin-up appearance, one might wonder if a country album is in the cards when you press play, but make no mistake, Deseree is country - with a splash of jazz, swing, and sultry sass – to her core. The twelve tracks, all of which she wrote, paint vividly written pictures that are filled with honesty, grit, and quick witted, intelligent observations.
The collection kicks off with the western swing vibe of “Pillow Talkin” where she informs her paramour that their afternoon trysts are just that, “Baby your still hers and I’m still his/So let’s just call this what it is/A hot little escape from the cold day to day/So don’t fall for me and we can keep it that way.” The fierce female spirit continues with the old style jazz (complete with a fabulous trombone) of the New Orleans-flavored “Stage Door Jenny” perfectly complements her smoky vocals as she sings, “I’ve got the most to lose/I hope my feet can outrun my mouth.” and the delicious “Eye Candy” a warning of sorts to a player where she asserts that she’s “not some passing fancy to play with little boy…. keep your distance…for you I’ll ever be eye candy.”
In addition to her well-crafted lyrics, Deseree successfully employs various instruments to great effect throughout the album. The mandolin shines on “Cactus Flower” which, with its desolate feel, recalls how there was no fun to be had for a good time girl in the desert town she grew up in. “And skunks and manure will keep a girl pretty pure/Til that call of the wild blue starts to mature/Bucking and fighting as mean as I could/ I was chasin’ trouble flipping off my childhood.” Trombone re-appears on the bluesy “Keep My Name Off Your Lips” which is brimming with the self-assured swagger of a woman with attitude who has no issue calling out backbiting girls, “You’re the same as all the catty girls in this city/Got two faces and neither one is pretty.” Mandolin and acoustic guitar provide the somber tone of “Wildfire,” a tale of a drug addicted mother who goes to prison leaving her daughter alone to navigate the world on her own, “I was too young to do so much on my own/Now I’m dustin’ off the pain years down the road.” Finally, the clarinet and piano take the listener to a jazz club on “Last Night’s Face”, a different take on waking from a one-night stand. “Last night’s heart given in token/Wouldn’t admit I knew it’d be broken.”
It wouldn’t be a country record be without heartbreak and Deseree provides it (gloriously) in abundance. “Rabbit Hole” details the push and pull of a relationship where neither can seem to let go, “Lovin’ Behind My Means” is a heartbreakingly emotional waltz detailing the demise of a relationship after she became the woman she wanted to be “I wasn’t ready for the depths of lonely/My soul is drowning in” and “Sin Eater” merges a bluegrass/country feel on a tale of a woman who continues to come to the rescue of a drunken sinner. The album closes in the best way possible: with a cutting, tear-at-your-heart duet with Ben Douglas, “Don’t Look Now” as she sings, “There’s no more love in the life we built.”
Deseree has said that this record is “drenched in the sounds that encapsulate my heart - fiddle, steel guitar, mandolin, guitar & sexy horn lines.” Give it a listen, it’s sure to encapsulate your heart as well.