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Songs carry The Wreckers

Axis, Boston, September 13, 2006

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

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In their previous musical lives, Michelle Branch was the focal point and Jessica Harp was her back-up singer as Branch forged a successful career with hits "Everywhere", "All You Wanted" and "Are You Happy Now?"

But somewhere along the line, lead and support decided to be equals. Thus was born The Wreckers, the sort of country duo that has not done too shabbily at all, having just scored a number one country hit with "Leave the Pieces."

What accounts for the success of the Wreckers to this point are that they have a bunch of catchy, easy to digest songs. Branch and Harp are far from ahrd core country, and, of course, what passes for country these days covers a pretty broad spectrum of music.

In the case of The Wreckers, appropriate touchstones are the Dixie Chicks when they go for a more country sound. That came through quite clearly with Harp's rendition of Patti Griffin's "Top of the World," which the Chicks also covered. Harp may be no Natalie Maines, but she comes pretty darn close.

Interestingly enough, Harp was actually the stronger singer. Her voice proved sweeter sounding than her compadre ("Tennessee") and soared far more. And Harp took on more of the lead vocals than perhaps one would have anticipated based on past history.

In her solo turn (Branch did actually back Harp on "Top of the World"), Branch turned in a far more pedestrian reading of Tom Petty's "You Don't Know."

Musically, the key player is Luke Bulla, who doubles on mandolin and fiddle and gives The Wreckers most of their country vibe. The new single, "My Oh My," was especially one of their stronger country songs.

But they don't stick in country mode forever as they often opt for a more pop sound. The first encore song, the Deana Carter smash "Strawberry Wine" was proof positive. And they closed with the well written - by them - angst-laden title track "Stand Still, Look Pretty," also more pop than country.

But whether country or pop, the songs are strong enough to carry The Wreckers through.