It probably would have been easier had Jenny Gill's debut recording been straight-ahead country music. After all, she is the daughter of Hall of Famer Vince Gill and Janis Oliver of '80s country duo Sweethearts of the Rodeo. Instead, Jenny Gill offers up a six-song EP that is more pop-Americana than anything else.
Recorded in her dad's studio (not surprisingly, Vince helms the producer's chair) with the likes of Willie Weeks and Jon Randall in the backing band, it's a brisk, slick production that eschews a homey family vibe for a much more polished feel.
Having spent the past six years as a backup singer in stepmom Amy Grant's band, Jenny's vocals are steady and sure - basically what you'd expect of a backing singer who steps to the front for the first time. Which is a bit disappointing, in that you'd like to hear what she can really do.
Gill contributes five of the six songs, and her songwriting is clean, simple and fairly unremarkable. "Whiskey Words" is the most emotional, personal cut as she lays bare her feelings of lost love. She offers up a nice ode to her inspiration Bonnie Raitt on "Lean on Love." Gill also sings of finding her own way as the daughter of her famous folks in "Your Shadow."
The biggest challenge vocally is on "The Letter," initially made famous by '60s group The Box Tops and later by British rocker Joe Cocker. It's a big song - especially in Cocker's repertoire. It would have been fun to hear her give it a Cocker-esque read and really cut loose on it. Gill instead opts to stay in her lane and never really cuts loose. Perhaps it was her attempt to see how well she handles a big song, and by and large, she does a credible job with it.
If this was Gill dipping her toes into the world of fronting a band, the result is a little splash in a lukewarm pool. This sounds and feels like a backup singer taking a stab at being in charge. With seemingly very little at stake here, it would have been much more refreshing had Jenny Gill performed a head-first dive into the deep end.