'Brave' isn't unique enough to mark O'Neal out from the other gals in mainstream...
Sue Keogh 2005
She looks like one of Atomic Kitten's older sisters, used to be a backing singer for Kylie and belts out Sara Evans and Martina McBride-style mainstream pop country. Jamie O'Neal has some way to go before she makes it as big as these two, but, two albums in, she's doing a good job at establishing herself as one of their peers.
"There Is No Arizona" was the first song to get her noticed, helping to earn her nomination for the Horizon Award at the 2001 CMAs. As one of those songs about searching for that elusive Mr. Right, it has perfect appeal to what the Sunday supplements lazily term the 'Bridget Jones generation'. Her version of the classic "All By Myself" was even featured on the soundtrack to the first of these two films, producers knowing that she would be at home alongside the likes of Geri Halliwell, Gabrielle and Dina Carroll.
Second album Brave offers more on this theme, the bright opener explaining that '...a girl trying to find herself the perfect man, is like Trying To Find Atlantis'. "Girlfriends" is talking to deskbound daydreamers, desperate to get their heels on and hit the wine bars after work. With a blunt chorus of 'girlfriend's kick ass' and the boozy women singing back-up, it wants to be as good as Martina McBride's "This One's For The Girls" but isn't quite catchy enough to get there.
Produced by Alan Jackson's man Keith Stegall, O'Neal co-writes most of the tracks here. She's joined by some Nashville stalwarts in the shape of Annie Roboff, Beth Nielsen Chapman (Faith Hill's "This Kiss") and Rivers Rutherford ("Shut Up And Drive" for Chely Wright and "Ain't Nothin' About You" for Brooks & Dunn). Not unexpectedly these collaborations produce the stronger songs on the album, like "Devil On The Left", a steamy and sympathetic look at the life of a stripper, or the lesson in positive thinking, "Ready When It Comes".
Brave isn't unique enough to mark O'Neal out from the other gals in mainstream country, but that probably suits her just fine; the next job is to keep the momentum, lest she disappears off the radar like so Mindy McCreadys and Sherrié Austins before her...