Nancy Apple,
Outside the Lines
(Ringo, 2000)

Outside the Lines is an enjoyable, high-energy country album that all country fans will enjoy. Most of the fourteen songs are original, and in a range of pre-pop country styles. Nancy Apple isn't afraid of twang, and these songs range from a pure country-blues to lively rockabilly, with an occasional quiet mood.

Apple's voice is a perfect match for the lyrics, and the accompaniments are tight and excellently done. The album is well-paced, too, with the songs working together as well as on their own.

I love the wordplay that country music often has, and Apple has several songs the feature it. "If Money's the Root of All Evil" adds "...then I must be a saint" in a song about the country staples of drinking and honky-tonking. "My Exercise Program" includes things like "jumping to conclusions" and "stretching the truth" in a tale of love gone wrong.

"Shiri Shiri Naka Naka Jyoto Ne" (translated in the liner as "I like your ass") blends the Japanese words with English in a song about a waitress. As it's done, it's almost a nonsense song, lively and catchy. "Time For You" is a lot of fun -- almost a mix of country with the Violent Femmes, an impression that Jay Harrington's vocals emphasize.

I didn't care as much for "Truck Driver's Woman," which seemed too cliched. It was recorded live and has that immediacy, but just isn't as strong a song as the others here.

The rest of the packaging here deserves mention. The artwork is lively to the point that anyone with a hangover would need to avoid it; the colors are intense and juxtaposed in a way that makes my eyes vibrate. It's fun, though, as is the series of illustrations in the liner -- they relate to the title song of the album, and take the form of children's activities like a maze and several dot-to-dot drawings. While the CD has a lot of supplemental information, I wish Apple has included more about the songs in the liner; I can't read the lyrics or the stories about the songs while listening to them on my CD player, since they're on the CD itself. The Flash CD presentation is very cool, though -- the lyrics and stories show while the song plays, and there's a lot of additional stuff, like an interview and music video. Very nicely done!

I like this album, and think most people who like real country will enjoy it a lot. The enhanced aspects of the CD deserve their own mention -- they're excellent, and a model for those who want to include such things. I like Apple's approach both musically and visually, and will look forward to her next work!

[ by Amanda Fisher ]
Rambles: 17 November 2001

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