Back in the '70s, country entertainers really lived up to the name. Multi-threat artists like Dolly Parton and Barbara Mandrell used variety show platforms where they could sing, dance and generally goof around. Laura Bell Bundy wants to know where those folks went, and is officially applying for the job. Fresh from stints on a soap opera and Broadway (as the lead in Legally Blonde), this Kentucky girl has put together a dozen songs with the aim to do it all. She wants to make you cry in the first six songs (the "Achin" from the title) and get up on your feet in the second ("Shakin").
Both halves score highly, mostly thanks to Bundy's flexible voice (think Mindy McCready with more firepower) and the clever wordplay of the songwriting ("I've been through your pockets and smelled your shirts/I don't wear Bath and Bodyworks"). Sometimes the kitchen-sink style can overstep (a whisper rap?), and things get a little too subdued on Please. But Bundy's willingness to try things, like a Sam and Dave horn section and a gospel coda on If You Want My Love, charms.
Most impressive is how the Achin' songs stay thoughtful and heartfelt (Cigarette and Curse the Bed) without delving into self-pity. The song sequencing gimmick is designed to bring an epiphany by the time you get to the kiss-off romp single Giddy On Up. But it's unnecessary - with a multi-threat talent and solid writing, you could put these songs in random order and still have a rising star.