Danni Leigh Divide and Conquer

Danni Leigh's Divide and Conquer is a good example of how strong songwriting can rise above mediocrity. This is the Virginian's third album, the first for Audium, and is the kind of record you have to ignore the cover and forget that the artist is TV-ready. It's very tempting to write this "contemporary country" off, but the songwriting forces you to give it another listen. Five of ten tracks are hummable and hooky. Notable inclusions are the Jim Lauderdale tunes "He Used to Say That to Me" and "Divide and Conquer," Lucky Lawrence's "My Last Chance is Gone" and the poppy '70s feel of "Yesterday," co-penned by Leigh. Her voice is fine, but polished; there isn't a lot of "hurt" in her delivery, and this is what makes a country voice stand out, at least for me. Patsy Cline, for all her crooning, evoked melancholy; Neko Case bears her soul; Loretta Lynn can bring tears. However, Danni Leigh sings the songs presented to her and does it technically well. It sells, but it doesn't bring you to your knees. Big cowboy hats do not a country singer make. Country is hurting music - you either dance the pain away or cry in your beer. An artist can sell records and still have soul. Good songwriting aside, what Danni Leigh's Divide and Conquer makes up with a little sawdust it loses with a lack of passion. (Koch)