By Helen Jerome
Heads or tails, Jo Dee Messina’s mastery of country-pop-rock and her strong, empowered female message makes for an irresistible combination.
2. My Give A Damn's Busted
3. Lesson In Leavin'
4. Stand Beside Me
5. Because You Love Me
6. Heads Carolina, Tails California
7. That's The Way
9. You're Not In Kansas Anymore
10. Bring On The Rain
11. I'm Alright
If you haven’t already been hooked by Jo Dee Messina, this long overdue compilation is the chance to discover her.
Along with Kathy Mattea and the late KT Oslin, Messina is surely one of country’s most underrated and neglected female stars – all despite having some nine no.1s and selling millions of albums.
Jo Dee Messina’s trademark, breakthrough hit – and title of this collection – is rightly up top. Chock-full of optimistic, uplifting drama, it’s a sweeping, joyous track reminiscent of Springsteen’s rocky Americana, enhanced by the warmth of honky-tonk piano and organ. It’s the timeless tale of heading for greener pastures, leaving “this one horse town like rebels without a cause” and uprooting yourself in ‘Born To Run’ style.
Its twin track, also from her debut album, is ‘You're Not In Kansas Anymore’; its epic sound matching its Wizard of Oz referencing title as she admits she’s just a country bumpkin in the city, spotting the Hollywood sign and Sunset Strip as she tries to fit in.
One of Messina’s secret weapons was befriending Tim McGraw at the very start of her career, his imprint across her records both as producer and guest vocalist on the thoughtful ‘Bring on The Rain’ is felt throughout the collection. You can also hear the influence of her idols the Judds, Reba and Dolly in the slick ‘Bye-Bye’, which is perhaps the precursor to the country-pop, hook-laden feel of Shania Twain.
The eternal idea of escape again dominates, with her left foot down on the accelerator and “rearview mirror torn off, because I ain’t never looking back”. Similarly, on ‘My Give A Damn's Busted’ – co-written by Joe Diffie – she ensures that every inch of this is boot-scootin’ and destined for the dance floor.
Messina also had some knockout cover versions, notably of Tina Arena’s ‘Burn’ and Dottie West’s 1980 hit ‘Lesson In Leavin’, a big hook about an old flame who won’t change. The tempo changes on the power ballad ‘Because You Love Me’, which feels like the ultimate tearjerker wedding song, and on ‘That’s The Way’, with its fatalistic, witty wordplay and mandolin picking that would work well in the intimacy of the Opry.
Heads or tails, Jo Dee Messina’s mastery of country-pop-rock and her strong, empowered female message makes for an irresistible combination. She’ll gain many new followers here, while sending the rest of us back to savour her original albums all over again.
7.5 / 10.
Jo Dee Messina's 2023 compilation, Heads Carolina, Tails California: The Best of Jo De Messina, is released March 10th via Curb Records. You can purchase the record from one Holler's selected partners below:
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