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Jo Dee Messina

Delicious Surprise – 2005 (Curb)

Reviewed by Ken Burke

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CDs by Jo Dee Messina

Despite the phallic guitar fondling on the enclosed poster, Jo Dee Messina's latest targets mainstream country's chief demographic - women. The 12-song set sports the usual Bryon Gallimore - Tim McGraw bag of tricks - '70s rock guitars and heavy pop chorus augmented with smatterings of hard fiddle, twangy Dobro and banjo. Yet, Messina's brassy humor, positive attitude and full-throated passion triumphs over the formulaic production chops.

Messina's sassy asides transform "My Give a Damn's Busted" into a classic put-down song. Paired with "Who's Crying Now," the current hit cements her rep as queen of the I've-gotten-the-last-laugh ditties. By way of emotional contrast, the desperate reflection of "Where Were You," the touching heartache of "You Were Just Here," and melancholy reflections of "Love is Not Enough" showcase the 34-year-old Massachusetts native's ballad style at its communicative best. However, the album's heart resides in songs of personal uplift such as "Not Going Down," "It Gets Better," "Delicious Surprise (I Believe It)," and "Someone Else's Life."

Clearly she is singing to her downtrodden sisters in the pink collar ghetto, advising them to stand up for themselves and go for their dreams. Not exactly revolutionary stuff, but from Messina such sentiments resonate with honesty and conviction.