Coco Hames - Coco Hames

by Steve Ricciutti Rating:9 Release Date:2017-03-31

After a decade fronting hipster faves The Ettes, Coco Hames is releasing her first solo album, and it’s a good one. Smoothing some but not all of the fuzzier edges from her band’s sound and mixing in some old school country-pop, she delivers an excellent debut.

For starters, as fans of The Ettes have known, she possesses a great voice. At times, strong, emotive, playful, or sinful, Hames’ voice may harken back to a host of singers from many decades ago, including Nancy Sinatra, Petula Clark, and Dusty Springfield, as well as more recent greats like Maria McKee, Lee Ann Womack and Alison Krauss. What these ladies all have in common are great pipes and the ability to take a song higher than perhaps it might have otherwise gone. Coco Hames’ voice is that good. She’s also a smart and focused writer, putting together nine songs (with one cover) that benefit from her love life as well as the finally honed musical chops gleaned fronting a band for ten years.

The songs have a balanced mix of country heartache and the trademarked slinky retro fuzz sound The Ettes possessed. “Tennessee Hollow” drops in a line that might be ridiculous in the wrong hands (“I left my love in Kentucky with a Tennessee hollow in my heart”), but Hames gives it the legitimacy it demands, straight from the Ryman Auditorium. “If You Ain’t Mine” has a tasty organ sound that would make Ray Manzarek proud, and “You’re Calling Me” is a cocktail with Deano torcher. A highlight is a duet with Deer Tick’s John McCauley on a cover of Bash & Pop’s (Tommy Stinsons’s) “Tiny Pieces” which has The Replacements taut guitar melodies and Hames and McCauley doing their best Johnny and June.

Through it all, Ms. Hames lays down solid, melodic guitar work and is aided by a tight band and some perfect instrumental touches. This is clearly an artist well versed in what works and what doesn’t, and she brings it all to bear. This is an album that could work across markets from country to pop to retro to alternative. I don’t care into what genre it falls, it’s damn good and one of my favorites of the year.

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