Kacey Musgraves, Brandy Clark and Miranda Lambert have demonstrated that country music is loaded with smart, talented female singer/songwriters who aren't afraid to get a little risqué with their lyrics. Add Tara Thompson to that list, if the five songs from her debut "Someone to Take Your Place" EP are any indication. In under 20 minutes, she sings about teen pregnancy, a doomed marriage and the most creative use of a washing machine in country music history.
Thompson's debut single and the title track from her EP showcase her musical abilities well. Written with Alex Kline and Leslie Satcher, "Someone..." is a playful pop-country kiss-off song with a few nice lyrical touches. A line like "I don't even own a pair of high heels/But I bought these at Payless on my lunch break" offers a refreshing level of candidness. The song seems destined to cause a little controversy. A lyric like "Get your hand off my 'mmm mmm' wipe that grin off your face" is seldom heard on conservative country radio - not to mention the bit about wanting someone to take her ex's place "on the couch, on the bed, on the porch, in the truck, hey up on the Maytag."
The rest of Thompson's EP is filled with snark and sass. "Vows," for instance, finds her placing bets on how long her sister's marriage is going to last. The tone quickly changes for "Pregnant at the Prom," which Thompson wrote about her mother. Not only is it the most traditional-sounding country song on the EP, it's also a sincere testimonial to a brave young woman who refuses to hide in shame. While it lacks the stoner nihilism of Musgraves' "Follow Your Arrow," Thompson's song similarly refuses to judge someone based on her choices. It's a difficult topic to approach, but she handles it with delicacy - not unlike the way her cousin, Loretta Lynn, handled taboo topics throughout her career.
Thompson will have to fight the same airplay battle that every other female artist is Nashville is fighting. While it's no guarantee that strong vocals, a sharp songwriting eye and a contemporary sound will translate into hit songs, Thompson's debut EP will lead to some high expectations for her upcoming full-length album.