Album Review: Sugarland – Love on the Inside

Matt Clark | July 22nd, 2008

Sugarland - Love on the InsideLove on the Inside, the third studio release from rising superstar duo Sugarland, is a good example of an album of significantly less quality than the sum of its parts. With few exceptions, each track sounds like a song from a good or even great album. Unfortunately, most tracks sound like the same song from the same great album. Love on the Inside finds Jennifer Nettles and Kristian Bush embracing a sound too reliant on severely restricted instrumental and lyrical repertoires that cause tracks to bleed together while excellent moments are lost in the numbing sameness and opportunities are squandered by wastefully conservative arrangements and poorly considered song structures.

The duo leads with the album’s two worst songs, the infuriatingly inane radio release “All I Want to Do” and “It Happens,” which, with typical Music Row subtlety, quickly becomes “(Sh)it Happens.” “We Run” at least tries for something more substantial, but it features instrumentation so similar to the two preceding tracks that it’s hard to distinguish from above the album’s substantial background noise.

And that’s the big problem with Love on the Inside, a strongly acoustic album nearly devoid of the wailing electric guitars and thumping percussion that have come to characterize contemporary country music. Sugarland’s inclination toward this musical direction has been apparent from the duo’s first single, but that sound is much less satisfying when exaggerated and maintained for an entire album, and Love on the Inside makes it clear that Sugarland’s attempt to integrate acoustic elements into their music is essentially misinformed. Most tracks are built on uninspired guitar strumming with the slightest hint of influence from bluegrass, mountain music and folk, but Nettles, Bush and producer Byron Gallimore under-utilize the supporting instruments that make those genres interesting and lack the melodic understanding and creative spontaneity that characterize genuine practitioners. Even when Bush trades in the guitar for the mandolin on “Genevieve,” he strums rather than picks and recycles the album’s chord progressions and tempo. As a result, one track bleeds into the next and the strumming quickly creates a sound that’s remarkably boring considering the energy that Bush and Nettles inject into individual tracks.

Despite the homogeneity of the duo’s arrangements, Nettles demonstrates substantial growth by tackling a diversity of lyrical themes that require great vocal versatility. It’s refreshing to hear Nettles try some more understated performances, though at times it sounds like she’s more interested in frivolous tracks like “All I Wanna Do” and “It Happens” than more substantial songs that are worthy of her talent. The same cannot be said of Bush, who ventures behind the microphone for a few truly bizarre harmony performances, including a shouted, arrestingly cacophonous second part on “Love.”

While the songs’ themes might be diverse, they are too frequently guilty of promising more in the verses than they deliver in the chorus. “Take Me As I Am,” one of Love on the Inside‘s few sonically exciting tracks, begins with the sassy: “Radiator says 95/But I ain’t felt a drop of heat all night/Here in this motel there’s no telling me nothing/I come here five night a week/To clean the toilets and change these sheets/My name’s Maggie Durant, baby ain’t that something,” only to hit with the rather bland chorus “If you want it, come and get it, but understand, you take me as I am,” while the successive abstract metaphors of “We Run” seem overwritten for a song built around a chorus of “we run, yeah, yeah, yeah, we run.” “Joey” is a tantalizingly tragic narrative until Nettles settles into a repetition of “Joey, I’m so sorry” that fails to resolve what becomes a lyric of disparate hypotheticals.

This practice of backing off the narrative structure in the chorus to repeat some abstract phrase is much more familiar to rock fans than country fans, and many listeners may be put off by the lyrical shift and its clash with the album’s essentially soft instrumentation. Also concerning is the duo’s reliance on downright bizarre metaphors, like when Nettles, already in the precarious position of mourning a female who’s her “only love,” cries, “She’s my Genevieve, she’s my lazy river” after remarking of the world after her passing that “The whole thing seems like Einstein’s dreams/See the smoke start to shiver.”

All told, it takes considerable perseverance for the committed country fan to plow through the first two-thirds of Love on the Inside, but those who make it are richly rewarded, first by the penultimate track “Steve Earle,” the only one of the recent bevy of name-checking tracks built around a characterization that’s unique to its namesake (“Well I heard Steve Earle had lots of wives/About as many as cats have lives…He writes a song for every one/They fall in love and before it’s done/He writes an even better one when it ends”). Most importantly, the infectious tune breaks the interminable musical monotony with a fast-paced steel guitar part, which may be an odd choice for a tribute to a rocker but is an effective one nonetheless.

The standard edition of Love on the Inside concludes with perhaps the best song in the Sugarland catalog, the stunning “Very Last Country Song,” sung from the perspective of a woman, who, alone with her memories, takes what comfort she can from her realization that “If life stayed the way it was/And lovers never fell out of love/If memories didn’t last so long/If nobody did nobody wrong/If we knew what we had before it was gone/If every road led back home/This would be the very last country song.” Fans who value album sequencing should skip the Deluxe Fan Edition, which blunts the impact of this stark finale with four successive tracks, including two unremarkable live performances and “Operation: Working Vacation,” which, with the distorted choral background, sounds like the theme song of a Saturday morning cartoon.

Love on the Inside is likely to sound to some listeners like a new musical direction for Sugarland, but it’s more an example of a duo inexplicably fencing itself into one corner of its musical territory that doesn’t communicate well with either pop or country fans. They’ve invested too much into one vibe that’s both over their artistic heads and incompatible with their commercial expectations, and the result is a collection of songs with several viable single candidates that should prove distinctive on country radio but collapse into a bland heap in the company of too many of their kin.

2.5 Stars

  1. Chris D.
    July 22, 2008 at 8:39 am

    A good review in my opinion, everything you said makes sense to me from what I’ve heard of the album so far. Of course, I’m sure I’ll enjoy the album myself once I get it today, me being the massive Sugarland fan I am, but I can understand what you’re saying, even from just having listened to parts of the songs.

    Also, when I first heard part of it, I knew “Very last Country Song” was going to be my new favorite Sugarland song, and it sounds like I’ll be right!

  2. mikeky
    July 22, 2008 at 8:49 am

    when i first saw the tracklist, i noticed the song named ‘joey’ and PRAYED TO GOD that they didn’t ruin concrete blonde’s ‘joey’ (which is a stone cold classic song). thank God it’s not the same song. there is a God and He is merciful beyond all human comprehension.

  3. gaby
    July 22, 2008 at 9:47 am

    I agree Matt

    While I absolutely love acoustic music in pretty much all of its forms (rock, country, etc), I also found that using these arrangements the way Sugarland did made things run together a bit.
    I am hearing a lot of mainstream praise for this CD, mostly due to the fact that it sounds different than pretty much anything else country artists are putting out there, but I totally agree that they almost boxed themselves into a corner with this one.
    “Very Last Country Song” is also my clear favorite on the album. Its a great song, that I definitely hope to hear on radio at some point. (Preferably soon because I HATE “all I wanna do”)

  4. Lynn
    July 22, 2008 at 10:53 am

    Thanks for the honest review. I heard nearly all of this album before it came out and I share many of your frustrations. Songs like “Joey” start out interesting, but go nowhere. Also, as I love bluegrass and folk and this album was being touted as being influenced by both, I was excited. However, I barely heard either. Maybe I’m just not used to acoustic music being so “produced.”

    The only two songs I didn’t hear in their entirety and was intrigued enough to buy were “Steve Earle” and “Very Last Country Song.” “Steve Earle” was a mistake. An interesting concept that quickly dissolved into annoying (especially the talking part). However, “Very Last Country Song” is awesome. It’s the only song where Jennifer doesn’t seem to be playing up her accent and stretching out every vowel (which she does more than usual on this CD). The lyrics also pay off. In fact, it’s the first Sugarland song that I truly like. (I was the only person who didn’t like “Stay”.) It’s the kind of song I’d love to hear on the radio. Smart and lyrically interesting with the right emotion and an honest performance.

  5. Kim
    July 22, 2008 at 11:35 am

    I love the CD. I think it has a little bit of everything on it and I didn’t skip any songs. It’s probably my favorite Sugarland CD yet.

    I do agree Very Last Country Song is amazing. I was drawn to that one on first listen and find myself playing it over and over. It’s beautiful!

    I also love It Happens. May be corny but I find it very infectious and quite a fun song.

  6. Stormy
    July 22, 2008 at 11:44 am

    Lynn: Did you get turned on to Tres Chicas ever?

  7. Trailer
    July 22, 2008 at 12:40 pm

    I’m gonna go on the record as giving this a 3.5. I’ve never been a Sugarland fan, but this record may have converted me. So much so, that I probably won’t do an “honest album cover” of them. :) Already Gone is my early favorite. I’m shocked at all the commercial risks they took on this disc. Kristian sounds way too alt-country (a good thing, in my book) for a Nashvegas record and “Steve Earle,” though a little cheesy, isn’t exactly soccer-mom song fodder.

  8. Dave S
    July 22, 2008 at 12:53 pm

    By looking at the track listing about a month ago, I wasn’t expecting much from this album. However, after hearing the whole thing, I couldn’t have been more off on my prediction that this album would just be fluff. I love the new direction this duo has taken and if they continue down this path, I may even find it in myself to forgive them for the fluffy songs they send to country radio. “Keep You,” “Already Gone” and “Very Last Country Song” are all great, but I must say that “Keep You” is my favorite. I think it’s Nettles’s best vocal performance on the entire album.

  9. Dan M.
    July 22, 2008 at 1:14 pm

    Uh oh. I went out on a limb and pre-ordered this based on the early buzz, something I almost never do. Hope the buyer’s remorse isn’t too bad once I finally listen through. At least the fan edition comes in a pretty digipak, right?

  10. Lauren
    July 22, 2008 at 2:24 pm

    I totally agree! This album is very mediocre! I have no desire to play it again. Nothing stands out!!!

  11. Mike
    July 22, 2008 at 4:20 pm

    I could not agree more. Perfect example of an artists ego ruining their work. Maybe they will take a step back, regroup, and come down to earth.

  12. Drew
    July 22, 2008 at 4:22 pm

    I’ve noticed a trend in your reviews, and although I don’t find it to be negative, I think you should make a disclaimer noting such. That is, that your reviews are based disproportionately on the lyrics of the songs, rather than the overall sound and melody of the music.

  13. Jaime
    July 22, 2008 at 4:28 pm

    I agree with you, Drew! I am amazed at how lyrics are analyzed here right down to the syllable. Definitely this is the thinking person’s country music web site.

  14. Chris N.
    July 22, 2008 at 4:29 pm

    That’s funny you should say that, because this is actually the most music-centric review I think I’ve ever seen here.

  15. Mike Parker
    July 22, 2008 at 4:33 pm

    Country music lives and dies by the lyric. If you’re listening to country music cause you only want a good groove, you’re in the wrong format. There’s other genres who do rhythm and groove much, much better than country ever will. If you want to hear a heartfelt, real lyric- country is where you’re supposed to find it. If this album doesn’t deliver worthwhile lyrics, it’s not a worthwhile country album.

  16. Hollerin' Ben
    July 22, 2008 at 4:37 pm

    standout review Matt.

    Drew –
    That is, that your reviews are based disproportionately on the lyrics of the songs, rather than the overall sound and melody of the music.

    I think it’s questionable whether it’s possible to disproportionately focus on the lyrics when reviewing country music. The (supposed) predominant ethos is “three chords and the truth” after all, which could be restated as “simple, familiar musical structures to frame substantive, revelatory lyrics”.

  17. Kim
    July 22, 2008 at 4:47 pm

    I won’t debate any points made here about the lyrics vs. the rhythm, but I have a hard time when listening to songs focusing on the lyrics. Could be just me, but I find myself liking songs on first or second or even third listen just by the beat and the overall sound of the song. I may catch lyrics here and there but I often find I have to concentrate hard to really listen to the story of the lyrics. I am a huge fan of country music and listen to it predominantly but it’s not usually the lyrics that peaks my interest.

    It’s actually something that annoys me a lot. I find myself having no clue what the song is about. I don’t know why I have such a hard time listening for the lyrics. Even when I make a conscious effort sometimes on my ipod, I find myself drifting off and having to start the song over.

    I am probably just weird :)

  18. Jim Malec
    July 22, 2008 at 4:51 pm

    Well, lyrics are very important to country music. Hence the saying, “three chords and the truth.”

    Country music has always used more than three chords, of course. But I find it strange that people criticize our tendency to focus on lyrics when lyrics are at the foundation of the genre.

  19. Rick
    July 22, 2008 at 4:54 pm

    This is indeed a fine review and just reinforces my opinion that I was not going to purchase this CD. A big name mainstream Top 40 Nashville act has to put out an extraordinary album for me to nibble, and that happens very rarely these days….

    To me the most interesting thing about the release date today is that this album is going hed to head with the new Miley Cyrus offering “Breakout” and I’m really curious to see which sells better out of the chute. Although Sugarland’s current single will motivate some fans to rush and get this the polarizing nature of that song may have other fans being more cautious. They should have included a song titled “Dark Knight” and tied this into the new Batman movie somehow….

  20. Stormy
    July 22, 2008 at 6:44 pm

    Rick: They could have covered Beatomatic by Bob Schneider.

  21. B. Jonathan
    July 22, 2008 at 9:14 pm

    I agree with most of this review, although I would give it a slightly better score. Listening to the full album is a much different experience than listening to the individual tracks.

    Although the album isn’t thematically challenged, it does seem to have some repetition, and some distinction would serve the whole project well. I think they’ll eventually improve on the formula, but as long as they are in the commercial country realm, they’ll always have the trade-off between accessible and revelatory, with both the instrumentation and the lyrical content.

    On that note, I remember a quote from Matraca Berg back in the 1990s when she was in the midst of her greatest radio success as a writer. She said she realized that the general public needs something to sing along to, so no matter the lyrical weight of the verse, she knew the importance of a commercial, simple chorus. I think that effort is slightly overdone here, as noted above. The stories throughout are very interesting, sometimes dark, sometimes daring, sometimes damn good fun.

    I’m convinced that, away from the constraints of their format, they could make a tremendously deeper, more creative record.

  22. Jaime
    July 22, 2008 at 9:52 pm

    Kim, I do the same thing. Usually I listen to music to relax. Listening to every word (and analyzing the meaning), for me, is not relaxing.

    I am glad that there are people who want to do the work for me, though. :)

  23. Drew
    July 22, 2008 at 10:22 pm

    Exactly Jaime. The first time listening to a song, not a ton of people dissect the lyrics, and still can come away with an opinion of the song. I also think weaker lyrics can sometimes be executed well and still come off as a good song. Personally, I just don’t see how breaking down the words should be #1 in importance… after all, it’s not a speech, it’s a song.

  24. Jim Malec
    July 23, 2008 at 3:43 am

    We don’t just look at songs from an entertainment standpoint. This is music criticism, not music promotion. That requires breaking things down.

  25. leeann
    July 23, 2008 at 7:38 am

    I’m not sure how Matt could have put more emphasis on the sound of the album.

    “And that’s the big problem with Love on the Inside, a strongly acoustic album nearly devoid of the wailing electric guitars and thumping percussion that have come to characterize contemporary country music. Sugarland’s inclination toward this musical direction has been apparent from the duo’s first single,
    but that sound is much less satisfying when exaggerated and maintained for an entire album, and Love on the Inside makes it clear that Sugarland’s attempt to integrate acoustic elements into their music is essentially misinformed. Most tracks are built on uninspired guitar strumming with the slightest hint of influence from bluegrass, mountain music and folk, but Nettles, Bush and producer Byron Gallimore under-utilize the supporting instruments that make those genres interesting and lack the melodic understanding and creative spontaneity that characterize genuine practitioners. Even when Bush trades in
    the guitar for the mandolin on “Genevieve,” he strums rather than picks and recycles the album’s chord progressions and tempo. As a result, one track bleeds into the next and the strumming quickly creates a sound that’s remarkably boring considering the energy that Bush and Nettles inject into individual tracks.”

    I’m really not sure if he could be more detailed if he tried.

  26. Chris D.
    July 23, 2008 at 8:11 am

    I know I posted first, but after I posted I actually got the album and I have listened to it a lot now.

    Now, I agree the songs do tend to bleed together, but I don’t really have a problem with it, if the songs are at least decent, I don’t think it should matter that they sound similar.

    Personally, I think the review was great, but I personally love this album all the way through. Of course, i actually liked “All I Want To Do” and one of the “unremarkable live performances”, “Life In A Northern Town” is a recording I have been waiting for forever to have on CD.

    I would honestly recommend this album to anyone, I just love the sound and I think it works well for me. Maybe it’s just not an album for everyone.

  27. Jim Malec
    July 23, 2008 at 8:22 am

    Chris D. offers a very interesting comment.

    Like Chris, I find myself agreeing with a number of Matt’s points…but I’m not sure if those points actually mark negatively against the effectiveness of the music. “We Run” and “It Happens” do sound similar, but at the same time, that “sameness” is very unique.

  28. Chris D.
    July 23, 2008 at 8:50 am

    Yeah, “We Run” has the beat underneath that “It Happens” doesn’t, it’s a beat you almost want to clap to.

    Personally, I would rather have tracks that are good and sound similar, than have jarring differences every other track that don’t flow well at all.

  29. scooter
    July 23, 2008 at 5:39 pm

    Very good review. I went out and bought this cd thinking sugarland is on top of the world(and the charts) and could do no wrong. I was a little let down. I still love her vocals, but i think some of thier best songs were the hard driving ones like settlin and twice the speed of life, county line-there was nothing like that on this cd. I agree that even though some of the had a bluegrass feel, it just didn’t do it for me. I hope they get a little more countrified next time. Maybe the success of “stay” made them go more acoustic.

  30. Chris D.
    July 23, 2008 at 6:13 pm

    Well, I see “Take Me As I Am” as the successor to the songs you mentioned, it’s up-tempo, big, and even has a similar theme of self-worth like “Settlin'”.
    Even “We Run” could be described as hard driving as well, at least I think so.

  31. Ryan
    July 24, 2008 at 12:40 pm

    Would have to say the reviewer’s opinions about this latest Sugarland venture are extremely generous (but respected for his honesty!). Most people who review country music are gushing with praise in order for continued access to the performers. I’m guessing Matt won’t be invited to any future release parties.

    My take, she would make a decent (not great) solo act. Regretfully, in a youthful Taylor Swift/Carrie Underwood era Jenn Nettles has missed her chance for mainstream appeal. The somewhat successful commercial appeal of the last CD (propelled by the single “Stay”) bought the duo a little creative leeway on Love on the Inside – in part brokered by a one act California management company. Not such a great idea. The last Sugarland concert I attended (which they headlined) left me thinking, at best, they’ve got a few catchy tunes but are basically a reasonably good (country-version) cover band. I’m guessing a somewhat loyal fan base that thrives on access via the come to love Sugarland “meet & greets, won’t have enough stamina to keep the Love on the Inside turd afloat.

    Country music should be all about keeping the message/lyric real. The duo seem, at least to me, too manufactured (ie matching designer costumes at the last award show). Big (cowboy) hat, no cattle, being from the ‘burbs of Atlanta kinda rings old after you’ve been in the “game” for a couple of years. Embrace baldness! Kenny did and look it hasn’t hurt him.

  32. Connor
    July 24, 2008 at 12:47 pm

    I really enjoyed this album.
    “Take Me As I Am” is AMAZING!!!!!
    It really shows of Jennifer Nettles’s vocal range and strength

  33. scooter
    July 24, 2008 at 3:26 pm

    One thing that Sugarland did do right lately was to pick Ashton SHeperd to open up for them on the new tour. Maybe someone as real and traditional as Ashton will have some influence on them. They could learn a lot from Ashton’s cd which is one of the best I’ve heard in years. It makes sugarland’s new cd sound “manufactured ” as the last poster said.

  34. Paul W Dennis
    July 26, 2008 at 11:12 am

    I’ll need to disagree with Matt on this one – I think this album is a very good effort, especially from a sonic perspective. Of course Jennifer Nettles could sing the Orlando Yellow Pages and it would still come out okay, and I agree that the songs could be a little stronger. That said, I have really enjoyed this album

  35. Chris D.
    July 26, 2008 at 12:42 pm

    Me too, I’ve been listening to it since I got it, and I’ve fallen in love with it. I think it’s very different than most mainstream country acts, and I think it’s better than their past two albums.

  36. leeann
    July 26, 2008 at 5:14 pm

    While I love what Ashton Shepherd is doing and really enjoy her album, a few of her songs do fall prey to the Nashville “manufactured” sound and songwriting: “Angels Wings” and “Regular Joe” are two that come to mind right now.

  37. leeann
    July 26, 2008 at 5:17 pm

    PS. I’m very confused about this album. The descriptions of sparse and acoustic arrangements has really appealed to me and makes me want to give this album a try, though I’m normally not a Sugarland fan in the least. But this review isn’t exactly flattering of the album while I’ve read so many others that praise it quite highly. What to do…

  38. Chris N.
    July 26, 2008 at 9:39 pm

    It finally dawned on me what “All I Want to Do” reminds me of:

    http://youtube.com/watch?v=5-F12ELnVRs

  39. Chris D.
    July 26, 2008 at 9:56 pm

    Leeann:

    You could listen to the songs on youtube:

    http://youtube.com/watch?v=ambJVBliL2Q

    Links to many songs are in the “related videos” column.

  40. Chris D.
    July 26, 2008 at 9:59 pm

    Of course, the quality is much worse on youtube, but the links give the basic sound of the song.

  41. storme
    July 27, 2008 at 1:34 am

    Chris N-

    That is dead on.
    What am i more shocked about?
    The fact that you pulled out “Tony Toni Ttone”?
    Or the amazing similarity between the two songs?

    RE: the review….
    Listen to the CD, not the writer of the review.

    RE: Lyrics….
    Lyrics are the focal point of Country Music. Period.
    Given, a great melody makes good lyrics better and can even make bad lyrics tolerable.
    But as soon as Country Music and/or its fans begin putting lyrics on the back burner, the genre is screwed.
    It will have lost its last identifiable trademark.
    You don’t hum a good Country song. You sing it.

  42. Leigh Ann
    July 28, 2008 at 1:57 pm

    i think overall Sugarland’s an awesome band and has a God givin talent. From Jennifer’s beautiful voice to Kristin’s pickin’ and also the fact they put effort into it album and made it fun and true. i personally liked all the songs and love the ablum i respect your review but i’m a guitar player and i respect there acustic capabilities and i love it. so i give this album a 20 out of 5 stars. :)

  43. Peter
    July 28, 2008 at 2:17 pm

    Chris N. – God bless you….I KNEW that I recognized that before, but couldn’t drag Toni Tone Tony outta the RAM in my head

  44. Chris N.
    July 28, 2008 at 2:27 pm

    I’m here to help. Took me weeks to figure it out myself.

  45. Jim King
    July 29, 2008 at 3:54 pm

    I really like the album although it took a few plays to get used to it. I’m surprised no one has mentioned the song which is easily my favorite, “Fall Into Me,” from the fan edition bonus track section.

  46. Chris D.
    July 29, 2008 at 10:15 pm

    “Fall into me” is one of my favorites too. Along with “Keep You” and “Already Gone” which weren’t mentioned in the review either. I also love “Come on get Higher”, I like the sha-la-la part the best.

  47. B. Jonathan
    July 29, 2008 at 11:44 pm

    I agree with Jim. I prefer “Fall into Me” to all of the tracks on the regular edition, even though I don’t think there is a bad track in the bunch.

    My favorites from Jennifer are the slow to mid-tempo numbers such as “Just Might (Make Me Believe)”, “Want To” and now, “Very Last Country Song” and “Fall into Me”. It just seems that she approaches a love song with a depth and quiet desperation that her chart companions can’t match, blending a complicated concept with a simple musical setting and idea.

    What a mouthful.

  48. Chris D.
    July 30, 2008 at 8:46 am

    Very well said, B. Jonathan. Her way of singing those songs just blows away all the competition.

  49. Leo
    July 31, 2008 at 7:15 pm

    I found this review confusing. I get the bottom line … the songs run together. Yet there’s enough praise for individual tracks to make me think it might be a bit of overstated criticism.

    It seems that happens sometimes here. Gary Allan’s newest album got a lukewarm review and I noticed it “grew on” y’all with time.

    I’ll have to give it a listen and decide as acoustic and Nettles sounds like a good combo to me.

  50. Sherry
    August 2, 2008 at 10:48 am

    Sorry – I’m a Sugarland fan from way back and this latest release is very disappointing. The reviewer was correct. I bought the CD – it hasn’t grown on me after a dozen listens (from start to finish). Came online to see if other people shared my sentiment. Too artsy or they’re trying to push the musical envelope right off the table for my likings. It’s nice to evolve but not beyond your fan base.

  51. "Gus Gus"
    August 3, 2008 at 6:46 pm

    No need to apologize Sherry. I too am a long time SugarLand fan and find the new album pretty much what they said it would be in all their interviews, those written as well as tv and radio. So it hasn’t been a total surprise, or disappointment. I love it as I have all the rest. It always takes time to develop a relationship with each song, from SugarLand’s first, four song album at Eddie’s Attic on through Premium Quality Tunes, the two Sugar In The Raw outings to the other two Mercury label releases.

    I don’t have the expertise as others on here to analyze each song for it’s internal components or motive or lack of spark, strumming or pickin’, manufactured sound, inane lyrics or melodies or musical worth, but do “like what I hear.” I have favorites also such as Already Gone, Joey, Genevieve, It Happens, Fall Into Me, and the Very Last Country Song. I enjoyed One Blue Sky, Fly Away, Sugar Land, Tumbleweed, and The Ride, among some of the earlier songs. I love Jen’s voice and presentation, no matter what she sings. And personally think she is a multitalented beauty. And Kristian certainly adds his talent (writing and production and musical accompaniment) to the mix.

    There has been talk of their music evolving since the three became two, and I don’t think this album will be beyond most of their fan base as many posts I have read elsewhere show considerable support for the new venture. I think album sales, successful sell-out concerts as well as a couple of Number One hits (AIWTO is Number one on Mediabase this morning,) will help expand the fan base. It will be interesting to see what the next album produces!!!

    The one act California management company could have control of my career anytime. I’ve been selective about concerts I’ve attended (pure SugarLand -only they) as well as indoor venues. The “fan base” seems to be from four year old young girls to eighty year old balding men, and all seemed very enthusiastic. A lack of minorities perhaps.

    Those of us who love the Sugar Land “Meets and Greets” and Concerts as well as their music presented anywhere is not dwindling in number. A couple of good articles are out there as part of the “media blitz” for the album about the fan base and SugarLand’s attitude toward their fans. Somehow I believe the “Love On the Inside” turd will still be afloat a year and a half from now, with a couple of Number One songs off the album.

  52. Dylan Gramm
    August 3, 2008 at 8:27 pm

    This record is definitely growing on me, and I can see it becoming my favourite of their records after a few more listens. On the first couple of goes through the tracks did run together a bit, but I’ve found that’s dissipated since I’ve had time to live with them for a bit. STEVE EARLE is my favourite as it stands.

  53. David
    August 5, 2008 at 10:57 am

    I have to say I disagree with this review. I bought this album with the highest of expectations after listening to there previous one. This album did not let me down at all, Sugarland has once again proved they are here to stay!

  54. Caleb
    August 12, 2008 at 4:38 am

    Hm…

    not communicating well with niether pop or country fans?

    and its number one on the billboard charts?

    hmmm..

  55. Thomas
    August 12, 2008 at 6:24 am

    your verdict 2.5 stars is less bad news for this album than it is for you, i’m afraid. it’s simply the wrong outcome. to justify such a low rating you’d have had to come up with more substantially negative points than you really did.

    that same-sounding impression that you describe doesn’t come from too little musical variety. actually, there’s no lack of that. it derives, more likely, from jennifer nettle’s distinctive voice, which puts a dominant stamp on anything she sings. but even if this, together with the intended sparse instrumentation, provoked a sentiment of some songs blending into each other, it still couldn’t push this effort into less than 3 stars territory.

  56. Chris D.
    August 12, 2008 at 7:55 am

    Thanks Thomas, that’s what I’ve ben thinking since I read this review. He just didn’t point out enough “bad” stuff to warrant that rating for me.

  57. Michael
    August 20, 2008 at 2:02 pm

    Really, objectivity speaking, it’s “bad.” You folks are Sugarland fans so will dig whatever they put out. Personally, I like some of their songs. Paid for this CD and wish I hadn’t. This was either rushed to release or these two just think everything they touch turns to gold. Unfortunately, for the latter, not so. Anyone see how many units this sold so far???

  58. Justin
    August 20, 2008 at 2:08 pm

    Gus Gus wrote:
    “The one act California management company could have control of my career anytime.”

    Ask their other client Vhonda Shepard (Ali McBeal fame) how her career is going. Be careful Gus you might just get what you ask for.

  59. Ellie
    August 27, 2008 at 1:16 pm

    Didn’t read everyone’s comments but in my opinion, this album is nothing short of AMAZING. When I first listened to it, one or two songs stood out as the best but now that I’ve played the CD 50+ times, all of the songs are amazing in their own way. I think they did a great job of showing the various emotions that loves makes us feel … a tapestry of emotions. “Keep You” brought tears to my eyes the first time I heard it. It brought me right back to a very painful breakup when I was in my early 20’s .. that first real heartbreak (like on the album cover). “Joey” at first sounded a little like her voice was wailing the name “Joey,” but when I went back and REALLY LISTENED to the lyrics, I understood the desperation in her voice .. I’m not sure but I think the Joey she’s singing about died in a car crash after a night out that she passed on … she’s wondering if had she gone out, would he be here and she’s singing to him .. of course her voice would have more raw emotion in it. I just think when I took the time to really listen to the songs, many of the production elements made perfect sense; very inspiring and pure creativity!

    When I listen to this album, I hear a very pure form of creativity coming directly from the souls of Jennifer and Kristian. They dug deep for many of these lyrics and I’d have to say from start to finish, this will be one of my favorite CD’s of all time.

  60. Marcia
    August 29, 2008 at 9:49 am

    I totally disagree with this review. The songs do not sound alike to me in the least. There are a few that I loved from the second I heard them such as Fall into me, All I Want To Do, Come on Get Higher, and Wishing others like Steve Earle, We Run, Love and Take Me As I Am all grew on me over time. The only song I don’t care for is Genevieve but if I only dislike one song out so many I think I got a deal. I have always been a Sugarland fan and this album did not disappoint. Jennifer sings upbeat songs like she is having the best time and sad songs as if she has lived every moment and cried every tear. This review is simply unfair.

  61. Gena
    September 21, 2008 at 6:20 pm

    Have you been to a recent concert???? These two are energetic, all about their fans and into their music. I attended the first “Love on the Inside” tour concert in Asheville, NC and they played 8 of their new cuts on the CD and they were ALL welcomed with open arms, words sung by everyone in the auditorium… They are brave, not afraid of what people think, trying to be humble despite huge recent success, dealing with a lawsuit and touring like crazy all at the same time. I love all their music, her voice, his voice, his instrumentation and the togetherness of the band. It all works!!!

  62. Rebecca
    October 25, 2008 at 1:50 pm

    I thought the live songs on the deluxe fan edition are amazing. I like the rest of the CD too, particularly “We Run” and “Take Me As I Am,” and although I think I prefer the sound of their second CD to this one. But “Life in a Northern Town” and especially “Come On Get Higher” are the ones I play over and over. The deluxe fan edition is definitely worth getting for these.

  63. Sarah Edgecombe
    December 29, 2008 at 3:32 pm

    sugarland are so diffrent to me because there music is so upbeat i completely disagree to the reviewer sometimes u have to listen to a song more than once to hear diffrents she cant help that when she sings it gonna sound the same haha theres some good songs on this album like fall into me , life in a northern town, take me as i am , already gone :):)

  64. CB
    October 18, 2009 at 12:36 am

    I absolutely disagree with the review. Sugarland’s music is awesome. Jennifer and Kristian are some of the only artists who actually write there own music. Yeah Taylor Swift does but she sounds like crap. I love this album I totally recomend it.

    P.S:Go pick up Live On The Inside and Gold and Green. They both rock.

  65. scottbug
    November 21, 2009 at 10:48 am

    This SugarLand CD is a great CD — great melodies (the most important part of a song) and great vocals and great instruments. Also, great lyrics (the least important part of a song). Best country music in quite a while. I’ll read a poetry book if I love words, which as an English major I do. But, Shakespere was not a singer. SugarLand is the very best music act in all of music. I love their combination of country, rock, folk, blues, bluegrass, pop, gospel. Great. Five Stars, because that’s the highest. The “reviewer” review — One Star. He’s wrong!

  66. Allison
    December 28, 2009 at 6:08 pm

    I have not much to say to this reviewer but that they are full of it… haha

    I’m in LOVE with this entire album!!Does this reviewer listen to Country music?? do you know what it’s even really about?!?! Sugarland brings back some old twang and country concepts into the modern scene. I have a feeling this wasn’t written by a country music fan… and I think that significantly reduces your validity of a “review”. Granted, I don’t know you… but back up your bad rating a little.

    And the fact that just because you are fans of a certain group doesn’t mean everything they make you’re going to like. I’ve had a few of their songs that I really don’t enjoy…

    Good thing I didn’t pay any attention to this reviewer, I may have missed out on one kick-a** country album.

  67. Allison
    December 28, 2009 at 6:20 pm

    Annnnd one more thing :) … relating to the criticizing of lyrics, such as in “Joey.” It makes you wonder, it leaves you in suspense. It not only paints a picture in your mind, but it leaves it open for interpretation to make the song fit your own life. If they said exactly what she was “sorry for” I think it limits the song. Take the words not for what they exactly spell out. Look into them! Relate them to your own life. Make them not only their words, but your words as well. That will help anyone to gain an appreciation for not only Sugarland, but for all music!!

  68. charles
    January 15, 2010 at 3:50 pm

    I really don’t see how he could that this album doesn’t appeal to pop or country fans when it has sold over 2 million copies. This album is great and don’t listen to anything this piece of crap has to say or anybody else who has anything bad to say about Sugarland. Their music rocks and there is no denying that.

  69. Josh
    March 16, 2010 at 5:05 pm

    i completely disagree, Sugarland is amazing and there songs do go somewhere
    There lyrics are amazing and heart ful
    But i have to say we run is the worst song they have
    But they are still better than brad paisley keith urban rascal flatts and most of the country artist, especially Taylor swift

  70. Michelle
    March 16, 2010 at 5:46 pm

    I’m not a big fan, but I like a couple of their songs. Jennifer has a really good voice, though.

Tagged In This Article

// // //

Current Discussion

  • Applejack: It's not just you, Andrew L. I just listened to the clips on Amazon, and the autotune effect is terrible.
  • Andrew L.: Is it just me or does Strait sound horribly autotuned on the clips for the new live album? I can't …
  • Juli Thanki: You'll get to hear it pretty soon: The Wall Street Journal is going to stream the album on their website …
  • Leeann Ward: Way to go to David Cantwell for getting a name drop! Great interview, Juli! Womack's new album is awesome! I've not always …
  • Jonathan Pappalardo: Great interview as always, Juli! The new album is fantastic. "Same Kind of Different" is my favorite cut although "Fly" is …
  • Dave D.: Good interview. Looking forward to the new record, and particularly interested in hearing her version of Brennen Leigh's "Sleeping with …
  • nm: I guess it's not surprising that a singer who gets her songs all over the place, the way Womack does, …
  • SunsetPark: As a Pennsylvanian to this day, thanks for the list. I haven't heard the Quecreek song and so can't …
  • Paul W Dennis: I would urge readers to check out the Billy Edd Wheeler salute on October 18, 2014. Billy Edd Wheeler is …
  • Leeann Ward: I'm really liking Pink's folk duo song! I'm looking forward to the album!

Recently Reviewed Albums

  • paulthorntooblessed
  • duhksbeyondtheblue
  • kelleymickwee
  • sandrarhodes
  • candi staton
  • sturgillsimpsonmetamodern
  • raypricebeautyis
  • rodneycrowelltarpapersky