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Saturday, January 24, 2009

Review: Megan Munroe - One More Broken String

Megan Munroe - One More Broken String
2008, Diamond Music Group

Megan Munroe grew up in the foothills of Washington's Cascade Mountains. Raised according to a get-back-to-basics philosophy, Munroe grew up essentially without the influence of television. This idyllic lifestyle allowed Munroe to develop her imagination and creative abilities in ways that bypass many raised in a "plugged-in" culture. It's ironic then that her first foray into the public eye was on television. At the age of seventeen she moved to L.A. to pursue a career in acting. Munroe thrived, appearing in three films and co-starring on two episodes of the WB's Everwood within a space of three years. By the age of twenty Munroe had tired of the narcissistic culture of Hollywood and return home to Washington to focus on music (while commuting to LA on weekends of acting gigs). Munroe is based in Nashville these days, where's she's preparing for the release of her second CD, One More Broken String, due on February 10, 2009. In the mean time she continues to act, model, writing, work on a novel and train for a 5K.

Just twenty-five years old, Munroe shows the grace, confidence and polish of a seasoned performer. Co-writing most of the material for One More Broken String with longtime collaborator Brian Oaks, Munroe explores the basics of life, love, happiness, and the consequences when one or all go wrong. Munroe opens with Angel On My Shoulder (Devil On My Back), a raucous country rocker that explores the struggle to stay on the right path between the power of grace and the draw of temptation. Munroe sings her heart out on this one and it is a likely single (or should be). Munroe's voice is honey and steel, in turns, with lots of heat and grit thrown in. She can tear the roof off one moment and turn vulnerability into an art form with her next breath.

Nothing Is Easy Anymore is a prime example of the latter, a quiet and introspective ballad that is strikingly honest with a highly memorable melody. The arrangement is a classic country one with pedal steel and compact, sorrowful sounds. Moonshine is a pop rocker with country instrumentation. Munroe gets to engage in a vocally gymnastic pounce flowing out of sultry stalking the chorus. Moonshine could be the sort of song that gets tied to an artist; it shows all of Munroe's most desirable vocal qualities along with her ability to take a performance completely over the top. It's bombast, country style, and it works.

Never one to stay still, Munroe moves on to Pennies In The Ocean, a paean to chasing the golden bail, juxtaposing the heights of success with the solitary songwriter, alone with a guitar under a nondescript sky. It's a musical reality check for all who've tasted success or at least chased it, and bound to be one of the most thoughtful and poignant songs of 2009. The metronome swings quickly with Munroe, and before you even done considering the implications of Pennies In The Ocean she's launched into the delicious spite and vitriol of Leavin' Memphis. The tale of dealing with a straying husband is incredibly rich and textured, like a short story in a song. It frankly makes "Before He Cheats" sound second rate. This is top-ten country chart material if it's released as a single (and a probable #1).

Angel On Fire finds Munroe getting down to a bluegrass sound reminiscent of Allison Krauss (and in the right part of her range Munroe sounds more than a little like Krauss). Good Fight is country with an urban, almost R&B feel to it. Munroe lets the glints of steel in her voice shine through here, projecting a toughness that is tempered by intelligence. On Shameless Fool Munroe finds her vulnerable self and puts it out on her sleeve. Some of the sweeter qualities of her voice come through in a performance that also has top-ten country song written all over it (this one is probably even more likely to be a #1 than Leavin' Memphis).

Perfect Storm is a pop song born of a waltz. Munroe goes for sweetness here in a country ballad that is fairly generic for country radio but still a pleasant listen. Belle Meade is one of those rare moments where artistry and craft combine to rise above the bar of mere performance. Munroe inhabits this song like it’s her life story. The song itself isn't my favorite on the album, but Munroe wears it like her own skin and makes it more than it could ever be otherwise. It's a Sinatra moment, of sorts. Speechless is another example of Munroe's ability to take a song and make it into something special. The difference that Speechless itself is a special song, yet Munroe still finds a way to inhabit it and bring it to life. The gritty powerhouse has thoroughly melted away here and Munroe sings straight from her heart in what may be the most potentially explosive commercial song on the album. The set officially closes with Lonely Tonight, a sweet and regretful song that sounds standard country issue. Cliché perhaps, but Munroe still manages to lift the song beyond its moorings. In a pleasant surprise, Munroe has hidden an encore at the end of the album. "What I Am" is a wonderful exploration of the dual nature of humanity; the sinner/saint in each person, and how this can contrast with the expectations of those we love. Munroe speaks more truth about the human condition in three plus minutes than many pop artists speak in entire careers.

One thing is abundantly clear. Megan Munroe is ready for Nashville and ready for the world. Munroe brings all the tools of an A-list performer on One More Broken String and uses them all too full effect. One More Broken String will put Munroe on the map in a way she hasn't been before, and for all that is likely only just the start. Her songwriting partnership with Brian Oaks would appear to be a special one. Oaks may just be Munroe's Bernie Taupin, and this could be the beginning of one long, wildly successful ride for a daydreamer from Sultan. In the mean time, One More Broken String is a Wildy's World Certified Desert Island Disc, an absolute pleasure, and an early favorite for breakout album of the year.

Rating: 5 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about Megan Munroe at or You can purchase a copy of One More Broken String at

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