Jo Dee Messina - 'Me'

Funded by Kickstarter backers, Jo Dee Messina's fifth full length studio album, Me was released on March 18th in the US and March 25th internationally. Me is the first album Jo Dee has released since her split from Curb Records in December 2012 and is released on her own label, Dreambound Records.
Her fans were asked to pick the album's first single - Peace Sign was released to radio on August 23rd last year. I have listened to the track and it reminds me strongly of My Give A Damn's Busted from Jo Dee's previous full length release Delicious Surprise. It is full of the sound that fans will expect, with Jo Dee's distinctive rockier voice travelling smoothly through the track. The production is very polished throughout and is led by an electric guitar and solid drum beat.

Second single A Woman's Rant was released to radio on 24th February this year. Enthused with an inherent bluegrass influence there is fast pace throughout, set up by an assortment of instruments including banjo, guitar and drums. Whilst the overall sound is slightly different from what fans of Jo Dee Messina it works really well and combines well with her gutsy delivery to create a very strong single. The track toes the line of almost cramming too many words in but in my opinion just about works lyrically. Lines such as "men they climb the ladder while the women pave the way" ferment the 'ranting' feeling that the overall production introduces.

Penultimate track He's Messed Up feels too poppy for Jo Dee in my opinion. I think this is primarily due to the continuous hand claps and the choice of lyrics for the backing vocals (frequent usage of "yeah!"). Whilst I think it will be a strong song to perform live with it's 'girl-power' lyrical message of moving on from the guy who is 'messed up' and it's punchy, up-beat delivery, I feel like the track lacks the emotive performance and the grit that Jo Dee is more than capable of delivering, even in her more upbeat tracks.

In my opinion the real gem of the album is the final track Say Goodbye To Superman. Jo Dee pours emotion into the track and slower tempo and lower instrumentalisation means that the real focus is on the vocals (which do not disappoint!). Whilst Jo Dee releases a lot of upbeat rockier tracks, I tend to find myself drawn to the slower songs as she is really good at delivering an emotive performance when required. The track also showcases Jo Dee's song writing skills (she is the sole writer of the track). With lines such as "when he sees his hero fall, will he know it's not his fault"  and "I need your strength to help me make it through, because the man who was his Superman was my superhero too". The track also reminds me of Sheryl Crow's Waterproof Mascara in both the sentiment and the instrumentalisation. It is also interesting worth nothing that Jo Dee's two previous albums (Delicious Surprise and Burn) were both ended by similar tracks production wise to this (You Were Just Here and Bring On The Rain) respectively - I would love to see more of a feature of songs like this!

Track listing....
1) Not Dead Yet - Alyssa Bonagura, Jo Dee Messina
2) Strong Shot Of You - Sherrie Austin, Weston Davis, Clay Mills
3) Love On A Maybe - Lizzy McAvoy, Jo Dee Messina
4) Breakin' It Down - Amy Dalley, James LeBlanc
5) Peace Sign - Amy Dalley, Tyler Hayes, Scott Leger
6) Me - Kathie Baillie, Patricia Conroy, Jo Dee Messina
7) Like A Kid Again  - Adrianne Follese, Keith Follese, Tammy Hyler
8) A Woman's Rant - Jo Dee Messina 
9) Take It  - Brett James, Hillary Lindsey, Angelo Petraglia
10) I'm Free - Jo Dee Messina, Dean Sams
11) He's Messed Up - Alyssa Bonagura, Jo Dee Messina
12) Say Goodbye To Superman - Jo Dee Messina

I am certainly happy to have new music from Jo Dee. The Unmistakeable trilogy of EPs pretty much passed me by (I bought Unmistakeble: Love but haven't really listened to it) so I haven't properly listened to an album of her's since the release of 2005's Delicious Surprise. I am sure fans of artists such as Martina McBride and Trisha Yearwood will like at least some of Jo Dee's music. Listeners who want to hear just one song should listen to Not Dead Yet for a typical Jo Dee Messina track but I would urge everyone to listen to Say Goodbye To Superman and A Woman's Rant as well at the minimum.

Whilst a lot of Jo Dee's music focuses on the rockier side of country music, she is undoubtedly a talented songwriter and the majority of her songs have a great story behind them. Delicious Surprise (the album before this one) was the first time fans saw a considerable number of tracks written by Jo Dee and she builds upon this with this new release.

The album as a whole is a well rounded, impressive release and is something Jo Dee Messina should be proud of. There seems to be a dearth of woman on country radio and in the country charts at the moment but I truly hope this album does well for Jo Dee and charts high (I also hope this album prompts a UK tour!)