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South 85 – “El Camino”

South 85 ***1/2

South 85 plays the Sweet Tea Jubilee on Saturday.


At the center of the South Carolina four-piece's debut album are guitarist Kathy Osborne's clever lyrics, which range from poignant to humorous. Although not doggedly feminist, “El Camino” is a collection of songs for women who aren't hiding their rough edges, much like the ladies who lead South 85. Not since Loretta Lynn has a singer embraced her Southern-ness so wholeheartedly as Tracy Wyatt, whose twangy accent frequently creates two syllables from one.

“El Camino” isn't a slick Nashville production, which makes it more authentically country than what regularly comes out of Nashville. It's unapologetically real and tough, with songs about women discovering independence. Besides a knack for memorable melodies (“Hold Me,” “Firefly”), Osborne writes the sexiest country-rock lyrics this side of Lucinda Williams (“Sex and Laundry,” “El Camino”).

Too country for Nashville? Too sexy for country? That's not a bad thing.

Jewel – “Perfectly Clear”

The Valory Music Company ***

Jewel plays Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre with Brad Paisley on July 18. www.livenation.com.

In a 2004 interview with the Observer, the pop-folkie voiced her desire to record a country record. Four years later, she has.

Although she's not one of the big vocal gymnasts country radio is stuck on, her unique, smaller voice allows her to stand out.

Her material, most of which she wrote, doesn't stray far from her folk-pop stylings. “Everything Reminds Me of You” (co-written by Charlotte native Joe Firstman) and “Two Become One” boast memorable choruses despite trite titles.

And one song she didn't have a hand in – the naughty “Till It Feels Like Cheating” – smells of a single.

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