After the 2001 release of Carolyn Dawn Johnson's debut, "Room With a View," it was apparent Nashville had another great female singer on its hands. What may have been lost in the whirlwind of success was the fact that Johnson simultaneously established herself as a songwriter of some talent, writing or co-writing all 11 songs. While her new record keeps Johnson firmly planted among Nashville's elite corps of female vocalists - her youthful, girl-next-door innocence offers a bit more maturity here - "Dress Rehearsal" is more a collection of CDJ songwriting gems.
The simplicity of songs like "He's Mine" or the top-down joy of "Head Over High Heels" initially reach out, but "Just Another Plane" and the emotion-chocked "I'll Let You Go" dig much deeper. Johnson wrote all but one of the 12 cuts.Unfortunately, not all the songs receive the best studio treatments possible. Working with Dann Huff this time around rather than Paul Worley, who co-produced the debut, there's too much clutter distracting from both Johnson's vocals and perhaps more importantly, her songs.
Occasionally distracting and often predictable - the silly little guitar runs and power riffs on "God Doesn't Make Mistakes" especially - this isn't Johnson at her best. Still, with her vocals and satchel full of songs, Johnson's still in the limelight even though she calls it "Dress Rehearsal."