Artist: Erica Sunshine Lee
Album: Southern Amendment
Label: Orsley Entertainment
Genre: Modern Country
Sounds Like: Shania Twain, Dixie Chicks
Best Songs: Mud On My Boots, Leaving Atlanta
Strengths: Great sound, Sturdy vocals, Intelligent songwriting
Weaknesses: Cliche at times, Only an EP
Erica Sunshine Lee has gained a reputation for being “the hardest working woman in country music”. The title is well deserved, seeing that Lee plays an average of three-hundred shows a year, including international venues in Australia and New Zealand. Lee is a native of Georgia but does most of her recording out of Nashville; she has received a substantial amount of praise for her five previous releases and has also complied a few popular singles that have charted both in the United States and internationally. In 2014, Lee was named “Georgia Female Country Artist of the Year”, and has toured with bands such as Turk Tresize and The Graysmiths. While Lee has had a decent amount of success in the United States, it is interesting to note how much success this country singer/songwriter also receives particularity from the international community. Lee has had three singles place top ten in European country charts. Her most recent EP, titled “Southern Amendment”, was released April of this year. Erica Sunshine Lee’s sound is probably best described as modern country with traditional and folk tendencies; themes in songwriting for this particular album range from tough southern jams to introspective ballads with an edge.
The overall sound, concept, and mood of this album is fantastic. It is dark, edgy, and tough, but can also be very tender and poetic. Although only a five track EP, each song is set wisely in the line-up so the listener is hit with a balance of hard and soft that serves to communicate the versatility and depth of “Southern Amendment”. Most listeners of this album probably won’t feel as if they are being bombarded by the same ideas over and over again, or by the same sound. Instead, each song shifts the mood just enough to keep things interesting, but not so much as to throw off the synergies in the music. In short, “Southern Amendment”, although only an EP, was conceptualized well and has a very nice arc to it. All good country music should tell a story, not just through the song, but through the album, and Lee did that with this release. Lee’s vocals are a breath of fresh air; there are so many pop country female singers on the radio today that have super high registers and that yodel-like quality to their voices, not Erica Sunshine Lee. Lee’s voice is somewhat reminiscent of Shania Twain, it actually has presence to it, it is robust, rugged, and has way better performance in lower registers than most of the other female country singers on the market today. Instead of something airy and soft, Lee delivers a voice that is hard hitting, full, and most important to the sake of country music, sounds like it has actually been through the experiences the music talks about. What Lee’s vocals have in these tracks, no matter what type of song she is performing, is character. Modern country radio needs more character. The attitude and tone in songs like “Mud On My Boots” and “Girls with Guns” is well done, and most listeners will be a fan of the guitar sound on these tracks; it’s kind of ambient, like someone turned the presence down or something, but really hot and crunchy. Think telecaster single-coils going through an overdriven vintage amp, in that the sound has a great crunch but you can still hear a little bit of shimmer on the top end. There’s just great sounding guitar on the more heavy tracks of this EP. “Leaving Atlanta” is a great ballad of this album, it is well-written, tells the story, and leaves the listener with a sense of satisfaction. The piano arrangement compliments Lee’s voice and the rest of the track well, and although there really isn’t any blistering high moments to the tune, I still felt like the song went through its emotional course by the conclusion. Perhaps that is one motif that can be stated about “Southern Amendment”: none of these songs really have a massive peak to them, but there are so many other ways that Lee ties themes together in the songs and so many other outlets of emotion and instrumental layering that most listeners probably won’t feel disappointed at all after the end of these tracks.
There aren’t many critiques that can be made to this album, other than how it does deal with a few of the classic cliches that are found in most modern country lyrics, (ie; tough country women, alcohol to heal the pain, etc.) but although the cliches were there, I found that the story telling and the overall songwriting and musical talent of Lee and the band was sufficient enough to pull it off and not make the tracks sound cheesy. The other critique is that “Southern Amendment” is only an EP, an artist like this should release more content, and while the tracks were balanced well it seemed like more material was necessary to really round out the album.
Overall, Erica Sunshine Lee and her band really delivered with this “Southern Amendment” EP. The songs are balanced well, written well, and were mixed in a way that is quite enjoyable to listen to. There is so much attitude on this album, yet also so much character from Lee’s presence on it, which is one of the reasons that this album has the potential to stand out a bit more from all the other female fronted modern country acts on the market today. At the heart of this EP is great songs and good story telling, but these songs were really put in their best light because of the performance and character of Erica Sunshine Lee.