Could the often directionless pop/rock music industry be the rationale for why some artists are “jumping ship” and shifting over to country? It cannot be refuted that since the dawning of the term “new country”, this genre has given itself a “musical facelift“. Initial pioneers Garth Brooks and Shania Twain gave way to Kenny Chesney and Keith Urban who in turn passed the torch to Sugarland and Carrie Underwood. The catalogue seems to be growing faster than you can say “Boot Scootin’ Boogie”. Add to this the success of some undeniably successful crossover artists such as Bon Jovi and legendary Led Zeppelin front man Robert Plant, who recently teamed up with Alison Krauss, and you may begin to agree.
Whether an occasional visit or a permanent relocation to this new musical neighbourhood, audiences and especially long-time fans are always speculating an artist’s longevity. This brings us to the most recent of fence-jumpers and Abilene, Texas native Jessica Simpson. Though her rise to success is often linked to reality show fame and tabloid scandal, Epic/Columbia Nashville’s latest “twanger” is celebrating her country album debut entitled “Do You Know” which rose to No. 1 on Billboard’s Top Country Albums chart and recently secured the No. 4 spot on the all-genre Billboard 200 chart.
Along with promotional stops on The View and Late Night with David Letterman, her tour, consisting mainly of state fair, casino and festival appearances, brought her new country act to the fabulous Colosseum at Caesars Windsor Casino. This just a pebble-skim across the Detroit River from the Motor City itself Detroit, Michigan.
The sold-out audience was welcomed by an audio track of Willie Nelson introducing the now ex-pop vixen. Opening with a cover of Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots Are Made For Walking” and dressed in jeans and a revealing white laced top, Jessica came armed with her version of Patsy Cline. Alongside a seven-piece country ensemble with all the trappings, Simpson played mainly material from her new album. To convince fans even further of her new musical direction she dusted off the Shania Twain classic “Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under”.
Each song was introduced by Jessica with a story set to the backdrop of musical accompaniment provided by the band‘s keyboardist and guitarist. Mainly consisting of her past heart brakes, each prelude attempted to connect the crowd and herself together. No doubt these were words of comfort to the young woman present who seemed to relate. Awkwardly, in a more serious introduction of “Remember That”, a song based on spousal abuse, Jessica told woman who are currently in an abusive relationship to “run the other way as fast as they can……….preferably in a pair of Jessica Simpson boots.” Also bringing up a chant from women was her mention to current lover and Dallas Cowboy quarterback Tony Romo prior to the song “You’re My Sunday”.
Though scepticism and judgement were obviously present in the 5000 seater that evening, fans seemed to at least give her a chance. Not all will be open to her new direction and after a three-year hiatus from touring, Jessica no doubt still needs to knock off the cobwebs. One thing remains however. Whether a pop-princess, reality newlywed, movie star or tabloid diva, Jessica Simpson is always changing and unafraid to experiment. Similar to another musical chameleon and multi-medium specialist, yet another question might be raised. Could Jessica Simpson be the next Madonna??????