Jo Dee Messina wears her defiance on her sleeve. She leaves no doubt what she has in mind on her new disc from the title (don't think of that as being egotistical) to the instrumentation where the first instruments you hear is the banjo to Messina's proclamation: "I've paid my dues, gotten bent and bruised/I've walked a 1,000 miles in these shoes/I'm here and I'm well/I've felt the fire; I've been through hell/I'm a little out of breath/But baby I'm not dead yet."
The defiance emanating from Messina could be the fact that she threw in the towel on the major labels, leaving Curb after 10 releases with the last ones being three EPs in 2010. "Me" marks her first full-length release since 2005's "Delicious Surprise."
For "Me," Messina launched a very successful Kickstarter campaign. Not only did she help write seven of the dozen songs, including two on her own, but she also co-produced with Julian King.
Messina sounds in fine vocal form, as usual, with the smart, but obvious decision to put her strong voice upfront. It's a powerful tool as it has been in the past for Messina.
But don't think that Messina, a Massachusetts native with six number ones under her belt dating back to "Heads Carolina, Tails California" from 1996, abandons what brought her to the dance in the first place. There's a more rocking sound with a driving beat (the catchy, Taylor Swift-like "Love on a Maybe" and "Breakin It Down") that tends to dominate and even uses synths. There is no pedal steel on this entire disc, nor fiddle. But one of the best songs is perhaps the most different sounding, "Like a Kid Again," a dyed-in-the-wool country song.
"Me" isn't all that different from previous efforts by Messina, who is very good at what she does. Messina may have wanted to make an album she could call her own, but when it came down to it, "Me" showcases why Messina has come as far as she has. But bucking the system only took her so far musically.