Australian singer Kristy Cox has received much attention for previous efforts in the bluegrass community. The appeal is obvious: a strong voice with soulful inflections that sounds more like down south than Down Under and stellar arrangements and instrumentation throughout.
Cox's reputation will be built on her ability to deliver a tune convincingly; you'd never think about her Aussie upbringing when you're listening to "South to North Carolina," for example, because she sells the character-driven narrative so well. "I Can Almost Smell the Smoke" takes advantage of an ominous-sounding key signature to bring out the darker tones in Cox's voice as she gets a chance to stretch its' capabilities.
Echoes of Rhonda Vincent course through the title track, a great banjo-led workout. Too often, however, Cox leans to generic middle-of-the-road country and gospel, with cuts such as "Blame It On God" and "Just Me Leaving" coming across somewhere on the overly dramatic continuum between Alison Krauss and Reba McEntire.
Having begun her musical career at a very young age, Cox is just now beginning to learn what works best for her. Producer Jerry Salley wisely surrounds her with top-notch pickers, but the missing piece is that seasoned, sharper edge, the sense of risk-taking as an artist that comes with the confidence and experience to not only meet, but exceed expectations of what a contemporary bluegrass singer can do.