Jessica Simpson – the next Dolly Parton?

Are her boots made for walkin’ the country line?

Photo courtesy of Columbia Nashville

Ashley Goetz

Photo courtesy of Columbia Nashville

Jessica Simpson âÄúCome on OverâÄù Sony Jessica Simpson has made some good decisions âÄî marrying Nick Lachey , turning a last-resort MTV reality show like âÄúNewlywedsâÄù into a major moneymaker, having pretty hair âÄî and some really bad decisions, like her cover of Nancy SinatraâÄôs âÄúThese Boots are Made for WalkinâÄô,âÄù dating John Mayer, dyeing said pretty hair brown and letting her creepy father speak to the press. In her many genuine attempts to find a niche in this big, bad music business (sheâÄôs tried her hand at gospel, bubblegum pop, too-sexy Britneypop and âÄô80s-era Madonna dance-pop, to little fanfare or avail), sheâÄôs stumbled in a variety of singersâÄô shoes. So does Jess fit into the cowboy boots sheâÄôs been donning lately in promotion of her new country album âÄúDo You Know?âÄù ItâÄôs a decision that toes the line-dance. Now, there are several things about Jessica Simpson that make her the perfect candidate to record a country album. No.1, sheâÄôs from Texas. And like one of her idols, the legendary Dolly Parton (JessicaâÄôs duet partner on the Dolly-written title track), sheâÄôs got abundant âÄúblondâÄù hair, a huge toothy grin, and a couple big assets underneath her T-shirt. Since Jess got the bug in her bubbly blond brain to make said country record, sheâÄôs been dressing the part, much as she did during that âÄúDukes of HazzardâÄù bonanza of 2005. LetâÄôs talk cutoff William Rast jeans, turquoise concha belts and beat-up cowboy boots. Marketing ploy? Maybe, but âÄúDo You KnowâÄù has its ups and downs, much like the story of JessicaâÄôs career. Because thereâÄôs something about Simpson thatâÄôs sweetly endearing no matter your personal opinion of the dizzy blonde, letâÄôs start with the good. The albumâÄôs first single âÄúCome on OverâÄù (already the name of a huge country record-setter of an album by high priestess Shania Twain âĦ way to ride on the coattails, Jess) has been getting steady airplay and is actually quite a decent offering considering the general publicâÄôs low expectations of Jessica and her musical quest. Country tune mainstays like steel guitars run amok and though Jessica starts out breathily cooing the flirty lyrics (she canâÄôt wait for that boyfriend to get to her house! He canâÄôt even stop for gas!) she just cannot resist her ever-present urge to over-sing, stretching her voice to the upper echelons of her range. The chorus of âÄúCome on OverâÄù is screechy as a barnyard cat; if someone would politely tell Jessica that such caterwauling is best left to someone with a little more substance behind their voice, like petite powerhouse Christina Aguilera , the song would have been elevated from âÄúOKâÄù to âÄúsolid.âÄù Jessica has a quality voice âÄî thatâÄôs undeniable âÄî but sheâÄôs got to tone it down to make an impact. Rein that girl in! âÄúYouâÄôre My Sunday,âÄù which just so happens to be an ode to JessâÄôs current paramour, Dallas Cowboys football player Tony Romo , is passably decent but not groundbreaking, and âÄúMan EnoughâÄù is the one song on the album where Jessica uses that big voice for good and not for eardrum-splitting evil. SheâÄôs obviously trying to follow in Shania TwainâÄôs well-heeled footsteps by attempting to fuse her pop sensibilities with her newfound love of honky-tonk and fiddles; sometimes it works, like with âÄúCome on Over,âÄù and sometimes it doesnâÄôt. With any country album, an artist risks the hokey, and Jessica has definitely stuck her boot into that territory with âÄúSippinâÄô on HistoryâÄù and the worst track on the album, âÄúRemember That.âÄù Country singers love to include a song or two with some deep, hard-hitting message and âÄúRemember ThatâÄù addresses domestic violence with laughable lyrics. âÄúPray Out LoudâÄù relies on religion, nothing uncommon on country radio. But really, most of âÄúDo You KnowâÄù is just mediocre, cut-rate country. Nothing in the album sticks out as particularly original; close your eyes and it could be Carrie Underwood or Miranda Lambert, or even old-timer Faith Hill crooning over the radio. But sometimes, when youâÄôre driving down a dirt road in your beat-up Ford pickup, mediocre country music is just fine. So, good decision or bad decision? LetâÄôs go with good.