I could simply begin and end this review by saying that if you were to pick up Start Here, the debut album from Maddie & Tae, one listen to the stunning “After The Storm Blows Through” would be well worth the price of admission. (And, believe me when I say that it is!) But, let’s hold that thought…for a few paragraphs, anyway!
2015 has been a year that Maddie Marlow and Tae Dye will never forget — From working their debut “Girl In A Country Song” all the way to the top of the Billboard singles chart was a highlight to their knockout performance at the 2015 CRS New Faces Show. But, as thought-provoking and timely as the first single was, they managed to deliver a follow-up single that plowed some further musical ground in the riveting current release, “Fly,” which continues to climb the charts.
Bringing their year further along is the long-awaited released of their debut album. If you’re one of those fans that continue to lament the days when “Country was Country,” (which, well…not enough time or words to fully cover that though process) you might want to take a pretty close listen to this album. This is definitely the most “Country” album of any newcomer to be released in 2015 that is enjoying success on mainstream radio. Even though Dann Huff – one of the most musically adventurous producers in Music City – sat behind the glass on this one, he was wise to not tamper with a good thing, and from start to finish, this album is one that might very well re-instill some hope that all has not gone pop in the format.
That’s not to say that there’s not some swagger on Start Here. Of course, the debut single was a great example of “twang with attitude,” and there are a few cuts that follow in this vein, including “Shut Up and Fish” and “Your Side of Town,” but it’s the same type of in-your-face sound that Ricky Skaggs personified in the early 1980s. Purists will likely take me to the shed on that comment, but it’s the truth. Skaggs didn’t know he was making musical history in 1982 – he was just doing his music his way. There’s a youthful zest to these performances, but with plenty of steel, dobro – from Huff himself – and traditional flavored sounds to please anyone here.
And, then…there are the harmonies. The duo have such a natural blend that (to borrow a quote from Vern Gosdin) is “as tight as twin fiddles in a Bob Wills band.” At times, the harmonies are not only just tight, but mesmerizing. “Waitin’ On A Plane” evokes comparisons to early Lee Ann Womack, and “Smoke” takes those sounds and puts a haunting twist on them. Both are definitely songs that will get your attention.
And, yes, there’s “After The Storm Blows Through.” I don’t know if it’s what is called radio material, but this is as close to a perfect record that you will hear today. The instrumentation. The harmonies. The lyrics. If you had to put one of these songs in a time capsule to show what Maddie & Tae are about, I would choose this one. It’s the perfect showcase, all the way around.
There is nothing wrong with pushing the musical boundaries. Acts have been doing that for years – it just didn’t start with FGL or Sam Hunt, and it will continue. But, it’s also refreshing to hear an act that wants to record in a traditional manner. Maddie & Tae have certainly did that here, restoring faith in an industry that newcomers do “get it.” Country Music. What a concept! That deserves a loud and proud “Yeah, Baby.”