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Cam

Untamed – 2015 (Sony Nashville)

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

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Cam (Camaron Ochs) is another one of those artists only tangentially country. In the leadoff title track, you can hear banjo and twang in her voice (especially when she rhymes "wire" and "fire"), although the latter doesn't automatically stamp you with country bona fides. And this disc won't dispel the idea that Cam is more of an artist who has found her commercial marketplace in country, even if her songs more often tend to skirt country. After all, she did place ""Maybe You're Right" on Miley Cyrus' "Bangerz."

Ochs co-produced the 11 songs with Jeff Bhasker and Tyler Johnson. With credits like Jay-Z, Kanye West and fun. under his belt, Bhasker adorns Cam's music with a pop sheen. Johnson has worked with a few of the same artists, which includes a few tracks on Taylor Swift's "Red." The three showed their ability to put together a commercially viable album that leans heavily on pop.

What Cam benefits from is the ability to write a bunch of songs that befit her style. "Hungover On Heartache" sounds like a song that Reba McEntire could easily tackle, especially with her twang. Cam belts out the song with sadness in her voice where it would have been easy to deliver a frothy reading. Utilizing acoustic guitar at the beginning and end was a smart choice.

The California has enjoyed a huge hit on her hands with the tender "Burning House," contrasting rescuing her man from a burning house with the relationship beyond saving. Cam delivers a requisite tender reading of the down in the dumps song, which calls for a heavy dose of emotional ownership. On that score, Cam succeeds.

Mandolin and banjo adorn several songs ("Want It All" and "Half Broke Heart"), but at heart, these are pop rock songs, which Cam pulls off. She has fun with "Country Ain't Never Been Pretty," offering a contrast between farm life (Cam spent a lot of time on her grandparents' farm in northern California) and the city slicker girl. She follows that with the closing sad downer of a song, "Village," where she pledges her support for her friend.

At a time when a solo female country performer is a rarity (Kelsea Ballerini was the only other female debut in 2015), Cam shows she can write and sing her way around a song with depth, even if she is country challenged.