Longtime friends Michelle Branch and Jessica Harp have always wanted to sing together. But things didn’t work out for a while, with Michelle winning Grammys and Jessica singing backup for her. But through effort, the two managed enough free time (Jessica was also set to record her own solo album) to record the duo’s debut album Stand Still, Look Pretty, which is a short departure from Michelle’s solo albums The Spirit Room and Hotel Paper.
While some of Michelle’s regular fans might distance themselves from The Wreckers’ country-esque sound, others might actually listen to the music long enough to hear the same pop-rock foundation of Michelle’s earlier tunes. The pop songs like “Lay Me Down” and “The Good Kind” don’t travel too far on the musical spectrum, creating some balance for the oftentimes too-country songs like “Leave The Pieces” and “Crazy People.”
But hark. Not all is lost for those interested in semi-acoustic pop rock tunes. The title track, “Stand Still, Look Pretty,” offers the most balanced blend of country and pop rock with its minimal classic rock melody and heartfelt country lyrics. The duo takes the tempo and theme up a beat with the anthem-like “Cigarettes.” The ballad “Hard To Love You” actually takes this even a step further with its beautiful choral melody.
The biggest knock on the album is its over-reliance on Michelle’s already established sound rather than trying to create something more original. Although it’s nice to see Michelle can succeed in another musical genre, it’s hard to gauge Jessica’s contributions. There’s not enough back-and-forth solo work to get a feel of the other’s talents. It either feels like a singular solo effort or a jumble – although, I could be wrong and the two could just sound eerily similar and I can’t distinguish between their voices.
Stand Still, Look Pretty is a fine debut effort, but given Michelle’s established reputation, I was expecting the duo to take the music a bit further creatively. What stands is a nice album full of country pop rock songs that will more than please the ear. I shamefully must confess I was expecting the album would one-up the Dixie Chicks. Maybe next time.