11 Songs, 38 Minutes

EDITORS’ NOTES

There’s an appealingly scuffed-up quality about Dawn of a New Day, the 2008 debut by Crystal Shawanda. This Canadian singer of Native American heritage doesn’t disguise her personal struggles and setbacks. Shawanda delivers plenty of vocal grit, bringing to mind the likes of Lacy J. Dalton or Tanya Tucker. While she’s capable of ripping into lyrics about hard times and bad boyfriends with relish, she largely avoids falling into familiar tough-gal poses. Tunes like “Baby You’re Back” (composed by John Rich and Gretchen Wilson) and “I Need a Man” are lusty, slightly tormented declarations of romantic need. Even more effective are songs that sketch out Shawanda’s path from an Ontario reservation to the Nashville big time. The album’s title tune (which Crystal co-wrote) and “Evolution” (which she didn’t, but might as well have) are compelling survivor’s anthems infused with hope. There are a few descents into sentimental excess, most notably “You Can Let Go” or “You Can’t Take it Back,” but these don’t detract much from the album’s gutsiness. By bearing her scars and keeping things real, Shawanda makes Dawn a promising beginning.

EDITORS’ NOTES

There’s an appealingly scuffed-up quality about Dawn of a New Day, the 2008 debut by Crystal Shawanda. This Canadian singer of Native American heritage doesn’t disguise her personal struggles and setbacks. Shawanda delivers plenty of vocal grit, bringing to mind the likes of Lacy J. Dalton or Tanya Tucker. While she’s capable of ripping into lyrics about hard times and bad boyfriends with relish, she largely avoids falling into familiar tough-gal poses. Tunes like “Baby You’re Back” (composed by John Rich and Gretchen Wilson) and “I Need a Man” are lusty, slightly tormented declarations of romantic need. Even more effective are songs that sketch out Shawanda’s path from an Ontario reservation to the Nashville big time. The album’s title tune (which Crystal co-wrote) and “Evolution” (which she didn’t, but might as well have) are compelling survivor’s anthems infused with hope. There are a few descents into sentimental excess, most notably “You Can Let Go” or “You Can’t Take it Back,” but these don’t detract much from the album’s gutsiness. By bearing her scars and keeping things real, Shawanda makes Dawn a promising beginning.

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