Nashville-based singer/songwriter Michaela Anne's third release has a more mainstream approach than previous efforts with mostly good results. Smooth vocals reminiscent of Emmylou Harris drive the 11 tracks all either written or co-written by Anne. She's at her best with ballads such as the traditional country cheating song "Easier Than Leaving" in which the singer confronts her unfaithful mate ("No need for explanation/I smell her on your skin").
Failed relationships are a recurring theme. With "Everything I Couldn't Be," an introspective Anne assumes the blame for a doomed union ("I didn't want to believe it/But the woman you needed wasn't me"), while in "Worrying Mind" Anne seemingly forecasts another unhappy outcome ("Loving me is more than I could ever ask of you/It takes the kind of patience only saints and angels use").
Perhaps the strongest track is the haunting "What Good is Water" co-written with the Stray Birds' Maya De Vitry featuring a rocking psychedelic guitar solo from producer Dan Knobler. There are some effective uptempo moments as well such as the title track and "Luisa," the latter featuring Rodney Crowell on harmony vocals. Some tunes such as "Living Without You" and "Won't Go Down" suffer from mainstream overproduction, but are still enjoyable because of Anne's vocals.
The stellar supporting cast also includes Philip Sterk (pedal steel, Dobro), Michael Rinne (bass), Aaron Shafer-Haiss (drums), Noam Pikelny (banjo) and Kai Welch (keyboards). Even Carrie Crowell, daughter of Rodney and wife of Knobler, gets a credit in the liner notes for hair and makeup. With Anne's sweet vocals, strong compositions and solid instrumentation "Bright Lights and the Fame" entertains.