Despite a grown-up major-label debut, it appears Taylor Swift is okay with just being a kid sometimes. Swift, a native of Pennsylvania's farm country, is all of 16. She keeps up with friends and fans on MySpace, bored-teenager doodles meander through the liner notes, and the album, which includes her coming-of-age debut single "Tim McGraw," has an iPod feel with as much pop as country among the 11 cuts.
Yet, Swift, thanks in part to unknown producer Nathan Chapman, deftly blends a Cyndi Thomson-meets-Hilary Duff sound anchored in Swift's smart songwriting while employing a heady list of studio musicians. Chapman is a budding talent as well, playing about every instrument imaginable while handling the production chores. Swift wrote or co-wrote all the cuts, but credit her co-authors - primarily Liz Rose, who pitched in on seven songs, including "Tim McGraw"- for lending direction and focus.
Swift's best efforts come on her deeply personal, self-penned songs, particularly "The Outside" and "Our Song," which she sings with stirring conviction.
It's an impressive debut that, while she pines about lost love and Tim McGraw, will likely have others singing the praises of Taylor Swift.
- Rick Bell