Love on the Inside: Deluxe Fan Edition | 3 stars out of 5
Jennifer Nettles' in-your-face performing style is akin to the sensation of diving into a chilly swimming pool. Even if you know what to expect, her nasal twang feels like a full-body slap. Thing is, she's got a terrific voice once you get used to it.
On Love on the Inside, with Sugarland partner Kristian Bush, Nettles sings with palpable ache on ballads Love and What I'd Give and power on rocker Take Me As I Am.
Taken in doses, Sugarland seems poised to break even wider with this 17-track “deluxe fan edition,” which arrived Tuesday. (A 12-song CD arrives July 29. “Deluxe” includes a live cover of Dream Academy's 1986 hit Life in a Northern Town with guests Little Big Town and Jake Owen.)
Country radio gave instant acceptance to the polarizing first single, All I Want to Do, with its catchy or annoying (pick one, both descriptions apply) “oo, oo, oo, oo, oo, oo” hook and its McCartney-like bass line.
The highlight is Joey, the most intriguing Sugarland song yet. Joey recounts a tragic, unnamed event. “What if I took the keys?” “What if we never fell in love?” The chorus cries, “Joey, I'm so sorry. Oh, can you hear me?” Joey doesn't reach the iconic status of all-time great mystery songs like Bobbie Gentry's Ode to Billy Joe, but it, and much of Love on the Inside, showcases a duo at the height of its powers.
Howard Cohen, McClatchy Newspapers