Thompson Square - Thompson Square
By: Bobby Peacock
Ever since I first realized just how many "duo" awards Brooks & Dunn has won, I've wondered why it seems that country music duos just can't get the same level of recognition. It seems like the best that most duos not named Brooks & Dunn or Sugarland could do was get a few minor hits, some critical acclaim, but never anything big. So it's encouraging (at least to me) to see more than a couple duos managing to break through in the past year or so: The JaneDear Girls, LoCash Cowboys, Steel Magnolia and of course, Thompson Square. The husband-and-wife duo of Keifer and Shawna Thompson successfully recovered from the false start of "Let's Fight" and has managed a Top 20 hit with "Are You Gonna Kiss Me or Not."
"I Got You" leads off the album with a shiny, loud lead guitar and equally energetic vocals from both halves of the duo, it's such an engaging performance that elevates its obvious premise of "you make me complete." Next is the aforementioned "Are You Gonna Kiss Me or Not," a flirty, interesting number about how much they love each other. It follows a natural progression from first date to later date to wedding, and the cute hook holds up well after repeated listens.
Pop singer Ross Copperman's "Glass" is the third track. It's a fine AC ballad anchored by Shawna's strong yet sensitive voice, and even though there's nothing particularly "country" sounding about it, it works just fine. Shawna takes lead on the comparatively mellower waltz of "If It Takes All Night," a soft plea to put away any anger that might have built up. It gets major points for the double entendre of "let's put this thing to bed." The song seems to drag a little, but that could just be because it's surrounded by so much tempo.
"Getaway Car" grooves and pulses wonderfully, brimming with energy and a dream-chasing attitude that seems real and fun. The lyrics make references to Jesse James and Bonnie & Clyde that are somewhat obvious but still far from cliché. Right after it, "All the Way" nearly overdoes the bass, but maintains both the spunk and energy, not to mention the theme of going all the way without feeling like a rehash. With a rhythm borrowed from Taylor Swift's "Our Song" and verses that sound like they came from Emerson Drive, "Who Loves Who More" is an incredibly catchy little ditty about a win-win kind of love. "My Kind of Crazy" raises all of the unanswerable questions about why people fall in love, not shying away from the tempo. Any one of these could easily fit on Gloriana's bright, slick debut album, and I mean that in a good way.
One of the more inspired cuts is the debut single "Let's Fight." It's got a very humorous premise: he thinks they've been getting along too well, so he playfully encourages them to fight; it's really hard not to imagine them smiling as they tell each other that they want to scream, shout and break things. How this one wasn't a hit is beyond me, but who knows — it could be the next "Voices" if the label is so inclined. "As Bad as It Gets" also has a clever premise: she always makes him late, he always leaves the seat up, they both drive each other crazy, but they both know that those little things are just that, little things, and they don't let it get in the way of their love.
"I Don't Wanna Miss You" is perhaps the only weak link on the album. Despite a few good lyrics at either end, something gets lost in between and the song never really takes off. Maybe it's the bombast and melody, which reach some of the same histrionics of Rascal Flatts, circa 2008. In any event, the album redeems itself with the thumping "One of Those Days." Although you can easily guess what it's about from the title, Shawna's crackling performance and the fiery Dobro runs give the song plenty of reason to exist.
Thompson Square may be all about the love songs. But it's twelve solid, tight love songs that never try too hard. Both Kiefer and Shawna are sturdy vocalists; maybe not overly distinctive but energetic, dynamic and, best of all, balanced. Their chemistry seems more apparent than that of boyfriend-girlfriend duo Steel Magnolia, to whom Thompson Square will no doubt be compared; it's less strident and calculated, more organic. Some listeners may be a little turned off by the very loud production (no doubt the result of Jason Aldean's road band producing it), but I feel that the huge guitars and bass (seriously; this album made my whole desk rattle at times) give the album a distinctive sound and a very high energy level. The current dark horse success of "Are You Gonna Kiss Me or Not" is certainly not a fluke, as Thompson Square proves that there's plenty of room for more duos in the genre.