Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz
Maddie & Tae (aka Madison Marlow and Taylor Dye) start their biggest song "Girl in a Country Song" with a warning, "No country music was harmed in the making of this song." That warning also applies to the remaining 10 songs, which is about as country sounding as music seems to get these days for most artists.
"Girl in a Country Song" is an answer song, of course, to the bro country going on all around them with faceless women being depicted as objects while riding in pick-up trucks. Maddie & Tea got on the map with the song, but that's not the sum of their talents.
The young duo make clear their intentions on the lead-off "Waitin' on a Plane." The sound is country, albeit pretty clean, and then the vocal harmonies kick in where Maddie & Tae sing of leaving their small town to "Paint a little streak on a blue sky." By song's end, they're waiting for their plane to take off, but ready to move ahead.
The highlight us the vocal interplay of Marlow and Dye with numerous worthy harmonies dominating (the percolating "Shut Up And Fish"). Perhaps that's no surprise given that they helped co-write all of them. Their voices mesh together so well "("Your Side of Town") and represent a singular voice in country nowadays.
With Dann Huff producing all except one song, this isn't precisely hard core country as he brightens the sound, but just a tad. Fortunately, he mainly avoids the more pop and rock brand of country for which he is most closely identified (Rascal Flatts, Keith Urban), albeit "Right Here, Right Now" rocks more. In fact, he deserves a lot of credit for liberally employing steel guitar, lap steel mandolin ("Downside of Growing Up"), Dobro, and more of the exact type of country orientation so often missing in the format today. No wonder they start their beautiful, gorgeous second single, "Fly' with acoustic guitar, instead of electric. With soft, mournful harmonies soon dominating, it makes sense. The instrumentation is no mere window dressing heard so often in modern country, but part of the musical core of Maddie & Tea.
The pacing is superb as well, such as following up "Fly" with the mid-tempo, sort of Mexican-sounding vibe of "Sierra," a song about a girl that Marlow did not care for in school.
Maddie & Tae are far more than one-trick ponies. They stick to their guns on their full-length debut standing country proud. More girls these are needed to sing country songs.