We’ve become so accustomed to popular country peddling pretty faces and fashion plates to us who have no place in country music, and whose talent doesn’t extend beyond their ability to prance on stage or pose in photos, we’ve become suspicious when someone shows up in ravishing fashion and wants us to pay attention to their songs.
Cheryl Desere’e lists “model” and “pinup girl” right beside her musical resume, so it might be easy for some to write her off as just someone with a lark for country music with no real world experience to convey the pain and heartbreak all real country needs, or the dedication to hone the skills of singing and songwriting to be considered a serious artist.
But those people would be foolish to so quickly write off this Samoan goddess from the California desert as nothing more than a pretty face. With a sultry, smoky, jazzy style, a hot shit cast of studio players, and original songs penned by Cheryl herself, she has let her presence be know in the traditional country world with her new, self-titled album released earlier this year.
Cheryl Desere’e may have purple hair, but when she starts to sing, she’s all country, aside from mixing in a lounge-like jazzy feel that fits her smoky voice like a glove, and constitutes her signature sound. Cheryl’s songs have that classic country way of encapsulating a moment or feeling most people experience in their lives in a poetic, yet plainspoken way. Songs like “Pillow Talkin’,” “Lovin’ Beyond My Means,” and “Eye Candy” work like lost country classics.
But Cheryl shakes things up horn-driven songs hearkening back to the speakeasy age like “Keep Your Name Off Your Lips,” and “Last Night’s Face,” which fit smoothly between the traditional country material. She has the whole Jessica Rabbit thing working in her favor, and this is where her sultry, smoky style shines. Some country listeners might think that Cheryl’s singing is a little strange for country material. That’s because her vocal strengths are probably more native to jazz. She’s not going to croon out some big chorus. It’s more about her come hither style conveyed with a soft delivery that sucks you in.
Listening to this self-titled record is like taking a side trip to a forgotten roadside motel lost in time somewhere in California’s desert interior, where the glow of a neon sign beats back the dullness of modernity, and the turning of a room key is like the opening of a time capsule to a place much more accustomed and comfortable to old souls.
1 1/2 Guns Up (7/10)
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