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Album Review

American Idol, Fox's ubiquitous pop-star factory, has had more than its fair share of hits. It's also had more than a few misses.

It's still early, but Crystal Bowersox has a chance to be one of the former.

Bowersox, the former Chicago busker with a turbocharged voice, was voted runner-up to Lee DeWyze in the latest edition of American Idol. But failing to win has never precluded contestants from breaking into the big time (just ask Chris Daughtry or Jennifer Hudson). And there's no question that Crystal has the pipes to make a mark on the rock/pop scene. Her December 2010 release of Farmer's Daughter hasn't set the Billboard charts aflame, but it's still done well enough to earn her some serious attention.

Crystal might exclaim, "Well, it's about time."

She's all of 25 years old. But she's already put 15 years of work into her singing career. She began performing in Toledo, Ohio, bars at the tender age of 10. At 17, she took off for Chicago, making her money by busking, which in her case meant singing at local train stations. She thanks the Chicago Transit Authority in her Farmer's Daughter acknowledgements.

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Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

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Pro-social Content

Much of Crystal's album feels deeply personal. She references her old stomping grounds and, most touchingly, appears to relish her relationship with hubby Brian Walker. She eschews material goods for love on "Mine All Mine," singing, "Don't buy me flowers/Don't buy me sweets/Don't give me useless little things/They won't make me complete." Rather, all she wants is for her love to "Play your guitar, sing me a song/I don't care if the words are all there/Or if the chords are all wrong."

On "Mason," she shares the mic with Walker: "I wanna be your mason, baby/I wanna build a life with you/I wanna take all this love I feel/And make a love that is stronger than steel." Finding a true love also means that "Lonely Won't Come Around." Crystal exults, "I felt like a flame trapped under glass/But then you lift me up/The dark is in the past/So let's freeze time and make this sunshine last/Forever you and me with our song stuck on repeat."

"Ridin With the Radio" disses the sad state of music today, telling us that we all need to "Turn down the hate/Turn up the kind/ … Just let your love light shine." "Hold On" laments a lost love while hinting at a singular truth: "Whatever we go through/We still gotta hold on to something."

"Kiss Ya" never goes further than "Baby, you'd better pucker up those lips/Take your hands and put them on my hips/And when it's over, when it's all over/I'm gonna do it again."

Objectionable Content

While the f-word in the title track is bleeped in the album's clean version (and is scribbled out but still legible in the enclosed lyrics), four uses of the s-word (on "Ridin With the Radio" and "Kiss Ya") are not. Bowersox also abuses God's name and misuses spiritual imagery a bit. On "Holy Toledo," she asks, "How in the h‑‑‑ do I get to heaven from here?" "Speak Now" has her selling "my life as I know it/To anyone willing to buy/'Cause it ain't worth much to me/To just stay here and sit around and cry."

It's not necessarily negative to dredge up memories of an abusive childhood. "Willy put his head through the door to find clarity/And you'd come home with bourbon breath/Jack in the air," Crystal sings on the title track. "And when you broke my bones I told the school/I fell down the stairs." But then she says that while she knows the Lord wants us to honor our mothers and fathers, "I know there ain't no way in h‑‑‑ that God mentioned you." She makes it clear that she's leaving—to let her tormentors live and die alone.

Summary Advisory

The 12 tracks of Farmer's Daughter are brimming with Crystal Bowersox's down-home rock style and sensibilities, sometimes drifting into honky-tonk ("Ridin With the Radio") or bubblegum pop ("Lonely Won't Come Around"). So if you're expecting to get a straight-up version of the Bowersox seen on American Idol, think again. The singer/songwriter serves up some surprises—and not all of them are pleasant.

In Crystal's liner notes, she offers "many blessings to those who have wronged me." And, indeed, Farmer's Daughter is filled with lots of stories of wrongs and rights. But the biggest wrong here isn't one of those stories, it's the fact that several of them are injected with profanity (and a bit of irreverence). And that takes a bit of the blessing out of them.

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Farmer's Daughter peaked at No. 28 on Billboard's album chart and landed at No. 2 on its rock album roster.

Record Label





December 14, 2010

On Video

Year Published



Paul Asay

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