Be still your heart, bend your ears, open your mind, but no need to temper your expectations for this highly-anticipated debut album from one of today’s preeminent country singers, the one and only Charlie Marie. Let the waves of classic country goodness wash over you, and extol their virtues upon your very soul, and put you at ease about the future of country music.
With albums and artists like this emerging in country music at the moment, it poses an existential threat to an operation named “Saving Country Music.” The only thing keeping a portal like this from being rendered obsolete and a “mission accomplished” banner hung is Charlie Marie receiving the deserved attention her music begs for.
One of the reasons it was such a tragedy when we lost Patsy Cline in 1963 is we never got to experience what Cline could have continued to blossom into and contribute later in life. Though it would never be fair to either Patsy or Charlie Marie to compare the two directly beyond the similar virtues of their respective voices and the style of which they’ve chosen to express it, Charlie Marie’s new album Ramble On certainly helps to answer what Patsy Cline could have sounded like if her career and life had continued.
Where Charlie Marie’s brilliant, though frustratingly succinct self-titled EP showed a kinship with the Patsy Cline sound in both style, writing, and music, her debut album recorded in Nashville with many of the top-notch pickers in the town has a decidedly more classic honky tonk flavor to it as opposed to a Countrypolitan one, meaning there’s a bit more punch and power, it moves up in the country music timeline about ten years or so, while the personal nature of the songs still resonate just as resoundingly.
When you get an artist that’s this good, you almost want to steel yourself to be disappointed since it seems to happen in music so often. As promising as the early tracks released from the album were, you immediately fall under the spell of the opening song “Soul Train,” where Charlie Marie commands, “It’s all about the country, not the fame. Come take a ride on a soul train.” Yes ma’am. I believe we will.
Your country-loving heart can’t help but to hone in on the voice of Charlie Marie and how it takes you back to such a superior era in country music history. But it would mean little if the lyrics and emotions weren’t instilled with such soul. Much of Ramble On is spent putting the sentiments of a pining heart into words, as beaus come ramblin’ into the life of Charlie Marie, only to ramble on later.
But where her songwriting shines is in the little wrinkles she includes in otherwise classic country song themes. “El Paso” seems like a fetching, but rather pedestrian Marty Robbins-inspired heartbreak song … until it’s revealed it’s another man that Marie’s man leaves her for. “Lauren” seems like a strange name for a song about a mountain man who can’t come down to give his heart to another, until it’s revealed at the end (spoiler alert) that the “mountain” he can’t be pulled away from is indeed another lover.
It’s the writing that’s self-aware of the inherent cliches of classic country and how to spin out of them that conjoins with Charlie Marie’s voice and the superior instrumental efforts here to make a full-bodied and enjoyable listening experience. And even when the song idea is a bit more straightforward like on “Bad Seed” and “Tough Kitty,” it all includes a classic cool factor that keeps you engaged.
Ramble On is nothing less than an assured pronouncement that Charlie Marie from the unlikely port of Providence, Rhode Island should be considered one of our premier recording artists in independent country music at the moment, and at or near the top of the pecking order when it comes to inspiring and confident women. The only question as always is if people will listen. But Charlie Marie has given them little to no excuse not to with Ramble On.
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