With just a touch of swing, “Playboy” comes sliding into focus in Charlie Marie’s self-titled sophomore effort, and a spindly guitar seasons it with colorful textures that we’ll find in all of the material that this song shares the tracklist with. Marie isn’t holding anything back from us lyrically or instrumentally in this record, and while “Playboy” is very much a string-centric ballad, it doesn’t sell us short on vocal virtuosity by any stretch of your imagination. “Shot in the Dark” puts all of the attention on the relationship between Marie and her music, and moreover, her ability to tackle any tempo, fast or slow, and come out sounding like a much-needed champion of contemporary country tonality. There’s a lot more of a western-bend to her music than what I’ve seen in the work of her closest rivals this season, and that alone makes Charlie Marie an interesting EP in terms of aesthetical originality. In an era where many artists are abandoning the genre’s roots, this is one country singer who has no trouble wearing her influences on her sleeve whilst playing to the beat of her own drum (literally).
“Countryside” is the linchpin in Charlie Marie, and it sort of summarizes what listeners can count on hearing in all five of these tracks – in some form or another. The melodies are molten hot, but they’re not overstated in the master mix. The percussion is just as loud as vocals are in the grander scheme of things, and much like the guitar, adds to the context of the lyrics on such a significant level that I would say that the narrative would be a little different were it not presented to us in the way that it is here. The bassline is almost non-existent, but it doesn’t need to be larger than life – like “Rodeo,” “Countryside” embraces alternative country’s minimalism while also staying within the parameters of the genre’s traditional sound. “Rodeo” is a bit more exotic in structure, but when we break it down to skin and bones, it’s unquestionably created from the same formula. Charlie Marie has found a sweet groove in her songwriting on this record, and if given the space to grow, it’s bound to offer us even more excitement in the years to come.
The first single from Charlie Marie, “Rhinestones,” is probably the most radio-friendly recording on the whole of the EP, but it doesn’t sacrifice any of its singer’s organic tone in exchange for its boldly assertive hook in the chorus. I can see why Marie was inclined to choose this song as the lead single over the others, as its defined percussion makes it provocative enough for the indie crowd while never disturbing the natural twang of the melodies it was meant to frame. I have a feeling that it could become one of her most requested songs live, as its design makes it an excellent template for an extended jam. No matter which one of these tracks speaks to you the most, if you love cool crooning country music like I do, you should consider this latest release from Charlie Marie a must-listen this May.