Cindy Lu,
Two Sides
(CG, 2003)

Like just about everything else that looks simple, country music isn't. When one learns that Cindy Lu decided to take it up in the mid-1990s, after poking around in other kinds of music without (one infers) notable career success, you pretty much know what to expect. Two Sides lives up, or down, to expectations: mostly mid-tempo tunes, none memorable or even passingly engaging, and songs that mimic country without ever approaching what makes the genre, however often abused, worthwhile. And it's not just country cliches coming up for one more weary walk around the aural block. She's an equal-opportunity employer.

The first song, a Lu original, actually contains the line "If actions speak louder than words." Another original, "Life Took a Turn," approaches parody:
It's funny how life can throw you a curveball
Just when you think you're on the right track.

When cliche isn't enough, there's always mixed metaphor. And then:
One thing I've learned through life's journey
Is to trust my heart to show me the way.

And also, with a brazenness you almost gotta admire, however deep the grudge engendered:
It's a cliche, I know, but it's true
When one door closes another one opens.

Well, well and so on. Not mid-tempo, "Honky Tonk Songs" is a by-the-numbers faux-hillbilly dance ditty, enjoining us to -- and I ain't joking -- "Tell the band to play them honky tonk songs." Them honky tonk songs turn out to be from the "Charlie Daniels Band, Brooks and Dunn, and you can throw in some Garth Brooks, too." Gosh, thanks. I love them hard-core honky tonkers, too.

The band is decent enough, the sound capably engineered and Cindy Lu can sing all right. Her talents, however, would find better expression elsewhere. And a trip to the songwriting woodshed wouldn't hurt, either.

- Rambles
written by Jerome Clark
published 22 November 2003