Even as part of the Ettes, it seemed as if Coco Hames was never happy simply aping the music of the past. In hindsight, for all the comparisons with proto-garage acts and girl groups, the trio's discography was closer to '00s rock reinvention than '60s nostalgia. Closing the loop of a song cycle that will have taken ten years to complete, Hames' first solo record will inevitably get compared to Dusty Springfield and Patsy Cline, but a more attentive listen reveals there's more than meets the ear here.
Far from being helpless, Hames' broken-hearted persona is empowered and resolute where archetypes of the past were victims of their circumstances. This fresh take on country traditions is reflected through the album's production, which isn't too enamoured with the classic tones associated with the genre. With the help of producer Andrija Tokic (Alabama Shakes, Hurray for the Riff Raff) and various experienced collaborators, Hames creates an inspired soundscape that manages to feel actual and timeless at the same time, as on album highlight "Tiny Pieces," her powerful alt-country duet with John McCauley.
Coco Hames is a skilful debut that explores the softer angles that the Ettes' last effort hinted at, trading in the spark-plug energy of Hames' former band for a more reflective flavour of songwriting. Luckily, her talent and enthusiasm for her craft are as strong as ever. (Merge)