What do you get when an independent singer-songwriter from Norway produces an album in a Victoria, Australia-based home studio? An international incident? No. An eclectic sound with not-quite-English lyrics? No. You get a country CD that sounds like it was produced in Nashville. "What?!!?" you say. You might not believe me, but it is true!
It is true at least in the case of Ann-Marita. The nine tracks on the self-titled debut CD from Ann-Marita introduce a pretty voice, a pretty face and proof that country music isn't only made in the good-ol' U.S. of A. Apparently other nations have farms (Ann-Marita grew up on one). Also apparent is that it isn't where you were born, but what your influences were growing up that count. In Ann-Marita's case those influences included Kenny Rogers, Johnny Cash and Dolly Parton, to name a few.
But what kind of country songs would a Norwegian in Australia write? According to the promo material, Ann-Marita states: "This record is about growing up, and having to do it a little faster than expected. It's about heartbreak, survival and finding your place in the world. I don't write about rodeos or pickup trucks, but when someone tells me that they were moved by one of my songs -- even though they wouldn't normally listen to country music, I know that I've hit the mark."
While Ann-Marita wrote all the songs she performs, I can easily imagine a number of Nashville singers crooning to "(No Slowing) The Hands of Time." This is a pretty tune with a light tempo that is slower than some of the other offerings that dare you to get up and (line) dance. You know Ann-Marita is genuine country when her own lyrics post words such as "wearin'," "cryin'," and "dyin'." How else do you explain replacin' the "g" from words ending in "-ing" with an apostrophe?
In my opinion, the most touching track is "That Girl." Another slow track, this piece can almost bring a tear to your eye. The song is about a girl with low self-esteem who is basically stuck in a rut. Instead of focusing on herself and raising herself up, she keeps looking for a guy to save her. Of course, in the end, they never do and she is back to looking for her next potential savior.
A half-dozen musicians back up Ann-Marita on her first album. They include Brett Garsed (various guitars, mandolin, backing vocals), Suzanne Morrissette (drums), Ric Fierabracci (bass), Stuart Fraser (various guitars), Chong Lim (keyboards and string arrangements), Steve Williams (harmonica). (Hmmm -- Garsed, Morrissette, Fierabracci and Chong Lim. I bet you're thinking this country CD can't possibly be very country.)
While Ann-Marita's self-titled debut country CD might be missing the classic topics of trucks, rodeos or alcohol common to the country scene, this is still good music. She demonstrates that folks who enjoy country music ought to look beyond the borders of the United States once in a while. Sometimes imports are worth checking out. Hey, if imports are good enough for Wal-Mart (a staple to the country lifestyle in the U.S.), then they can work for music as well. Don't worry about Nashville exporting singing jobs offshore to save money. There is room enough in the music business for singers from all over. Now, wander over to Ann-Marita's website and give some of those mp3s a gander. I reckon you'll agree this is some mighty fine singin'.
by Wil Owen