album reviews

The Wreckers
Stand Still, Look Pretty
Maverick (2006)

It would've been easy for Michelle Branch to coast along in her pop career after two platinum albums, numerous hit singles and a Grammy for her 2002 collaboration with Carlos Santana. Instead she chose to pursue a country project called the Wreckers with longtime friend and backup singer Jessica Harp. The result, "Stand Still, Look Pretty," is a charmingly catchy debut that joins Branch's pop sensibilities with traditional country music elements: a warm twang and rich harmonies.

While Branch is the pair's better known musician, this is an equally collaborative project: Branch and Harp wrote most of the album together and they share vocal duties. Their voices are so complementary that it is nearly impossible to tell them apart. Their blended harmony on "My, Oh My" magnifies the song's boot-stompin' sass, while their exaggerated drawl on "Crazy People" emphasizes the humor in the lyrics ("Only crazy people fall in love with me").

"Stand Still" features a few solo compositions as well: Harp's bittersweet "Tennessee" captures the wistfulness of breakup regret, while Branch's "Rain" channels the same passionate aggression as her single "Are You Happy Now?" But Branch and Harp's strength is their partnership: The dejection in the album's mellow title track recalls Kasey Chambers's dark songwriting, while their emotion-drenched harmonies in "The Good Kind" intensify the song's heartbreak.

-Catherine P. Lewis

.: Originally published: The Washington Post: 24 May 2006, Page C05
.: Stand Still, Look Pretty on