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Sugarland

Twice the Speed of Life – 2004 (Mercury)

Reviewed by Brian Baker

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CDs by Sugarland

The reason that Sugarland's debut album sounds so accomplished is the stellar resumes of the Atlanta-based band's three principals. Acoustic guitarist/harmony vocalist Kristen Hall released a pair of acclaimed albums on High Street as a solo artist and self-released another, all of which showcased her amazing sense of melody and her propensity for soul piercing story songs. Mandolinist/harmony vocalist Kristian Bush was half of country/folk duo Billy Pilgrim, whose two Atlantic albums were critically lauded for the same reasons as Hall's. Lead vocalist Jennifer Nettles spent nearly a decade on the Atlanta circuit making a jazzy Americana reputation for herself on the strength of her incredible voice.

Although it may seem incongruous to put these three in a band together, they found not only each other, but a natural commonality between them, namely a pure love of song and performance. Nettles possesses the perfect country voice, a clarion call with just the right amount and intensity of twang, while all three contribute to Sugarland's gorgeous harmonies and amazing universal/personal compositions (Hall is the workhorse in this regard, writing or co-writing every song).

The album is stacked with potential radio hits, but the frontrunners are clearly "Baby Girl," a series of letters home from a daughter who appreciates the worth and source of her upbringing, and the heartaching country goodness of Hall's "Just Might (Make Me Believe)." Sugarland's three gifted individuals set impossibly high creative bars on their own; as a band, they clear those marks with relative ease.