The gentle voice that singer/songwriter B.B. Cole utilizes to tell us so many stories in her new record Outgrowing Ourselves is indeed a treasure to behold when listening to any of the nine songs featured in the album, but without the framework created by the arrangements in this LP, I can’t say that her vocal would be as enamoring as it is in this situation.
Rather than trying to impress us with her depth as a singer alone, there’s a complicated exchange between Cole and her backing band in tracks like “My Decision” and “Demons” that is far more enticing to the ears and reflective of her abilities as a performer, as opposed to what she can do as a singer exclusively. There’s something rather bewitching about the way she weaves her words into the string play she straddles in a lot of this material, and there’s scarcely a case where the charisma and versatility of a song aren’t starting with her personality.
This is as much a statement of herself as it is a commentary about the lack of true soul in country right now, which in itself is going to help her go a long way with the sound she’s offering in this debut record.
The beat that circles the verses in “She Gave Me Feathers” and “Wear Your Crown” is as haunting as any of the lyrics Cole has to sing for us, and there’s a case to be made for the narratives in both of these tracks being just a little more biting because of their individual backdrops. As I noted before, the band that’s supporting her in each performance in Outgrowing Ourselves is worth their weight in gold, and I don’t hear a single instance where they have a difficult time connecting with one another as artists.
The hook-driven works that are featured in this LP aren’t so overwhelmingly sappy on the melodic end as to leave Cole with an underwhelming spot at the forefront of the mix, and in songs like “Tears and Fears” and “Emotional Baggage,” I think she shows a willingness to step outside of the box while still sticking with a relatively pop-friendly format.
Compositionally and conceptually, there’s nothing in Outgrowing Ourselves that should repel the typical country music enthusiast, and this is especially true of those who have been craving just a little more feeling and melodic presence from America’s most iconic genre. The pop sensibilities in this album are mild enough to where I don’t envision any serious critics taking B.B. Cole to task with her credibility as a country artist, and I would even say that her capabilities get a lot more of the spotlight thanks to her intelligent management of different influences inside of the same tracklist (and frequently the same song).
This is still the beginning of her career, but from what I can tell in this material, she’s already onto something likely to bring her a lot of applause from the right folks in Nashville.