Maddie & Tae, "Start Here" (Big Machine)

When you launch your career with a brilliant and timely single, as Maddie Marlow and Tae Dye did with "Girl in a Country Song," it gets a little tough to manage expectations. The duo's debut does not have anything to match their smart, savvy No. 1 hit, which lampoons the objectification of women in country music while using the trappings of a bro-country hit. Instead, Maddie & Tae use their album to put their spin on more traditional forms of country, cowriting all 11 tunes. On "Shut Up and Fish," they shake up stereotypes again by complaining about a lovestruck boyfriend whose chattering is scaring away the fish. On "Sierra," they take on a former friend with a playful edge similar to the one that made the Dixie Chicks stars. Even on more conventional songs such as "Smoke," Maddie & Tae's harmonies make them special, ensuring that "Start Here" is only the beginning of big things for them.

Glenn gamboa, Newsday


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