This year’s Red, White & Boom has a big name among teen TV fans in Lucy Hale, better known — for now — as Aria on ABC Family’s Pretty Little Liars than for her debut country album, Road Between, which came out earlier this month. More on Lucy, and our interview with her, soon.
But it’s a safe bet a lot of teens who obsess over PLL now watched another Red, White & Boom artist when she ruled Nickelodeon a few years ago. Jamie Lynn Spears was initially known best as Britney’s little sister but earned positive reviews for her work on the variety show All That and the series Zoey 101, which ran from 2005 to 2008.
That all came to a halt when Spears became pregnant at age 16 by her boyfriend Casey Aldridge. Since then, her life has been minor league tabloid fodder. But now, she is newly married to a media businessman and embarking on a country music career.
Her debut EP, The Journey, features five songs, the best of which come across as at least somewhat autobiographical. Shotgun Wedding walks right into Spears’ past with a song that feels confessional but not apologetic. “It aint ’cause momma didn’t raise me right, It aint ’cause daddy didn’t try try try, Two bored kids on a friday night, Got to kissing in the dark in a parking lot … ” she sings in a spirit that echoes Miranda Lambert as much as anything her sister ever did.
The EP unfortunately cools down a bit from the opener to cover some fairly routine country tunes like the grooving Run. But Spears brings a gentle sincerity to How Could I Want More, the EP’s debut single, a peaceful declaration of contentment.
It’s easy to contextualize Big Bad World, The Journey’s finale, with Spears’ life, but hard to see her quite as naive as the character the song portrays. But we already knew Spears is a good actress, and her performance of this song is as natural and effective as any of the tracks on the EP.
It is hard to say at this point if Spears has a country career ahead of her that will make people forget her past or her famous sister. But clearly strong voices run in the Spears family, and that name and some good material will give her a better shot than most Nashville singers get.
With Red, White & Boom in a couple weeks, we’re giving a listen to music by some of the supporting acts in the 18-band lineup to give you a sense what you’ll hear while you tan July 5 and 6.