They say pure talent will always win the day, but there’s something to be said for unbridled enthusiasm.
Cindy Wolfe, the brains behind the Tennessee Twin, gets plenty of mileage out of her enthusiasm for traditional country music, and the songs on the ensemble’s debut album, Free To Do What?, rollick with an authentic, austere old-school country sound.
As a songwriter, Wolfe is fearless about applying those Americana sounds in service of attacking conservative American values. The Tennessee-born, Washington-bred Vancouver resident targets George W. Bush on the album’s title track: “Mr. President from the elections that weren’t free/Thanks for all the violence and all the hypocrisy.” There’s a scrappy feminist spirit behind both “Tomorrow I’m Gonna Leave Him” and “The Apple Of Your Black Orange”. It all comes together best on the slightly spooky “Aunt Apple And Cousin Eye”, which makes the best use of Wolfe’s limited voice.
And there’s the principle problem with the Tennessee Twin. Even as Wolfe’s music recalls some of the masters of the genre, her voice often falls short of the mark. The deficit is never more evident than on a version of Dolly Parton’s “Wildflowers”, which invites an unflattering comparison.