An acoustic guitar is gently strummed to a feathery beat as we get lost in the hypnotizing vocal of Charlie Marie. She sings of broncos and blue jeans, dusty cowboys and the adrenaline that comes with riding a wild bull. Her passion is audible, her emotion undeniable. In “Rodeo,” one of five songs comprising her new self-titled EP, we’re invited to engage with Marie’s quaint but relatable songcraft through a litany of evocative elements that bear a familiar country color but are otherwise as fresh and original as it gets. What’s even more pleasing is that this is just a taste of what every track on this extended play has to offer.
Lead single “Rhinestones” utilizes a completely different pace than “Rodeo” does, but spellbinds us with its swarthy construction just as much as the more straightforward “Playboy” does with its acrylic percussion. The energy is lively and rich in this track, and next to the slow song “Shot in the Dark,” it highlights Marie’s freewheeling attitude in a record that leans towards elegiac tones more often than not. “Countryside” and “Shot in the Dark” aren’t the saddest songs I’ve heard this season, but they’ve got a somber elegance that isn’t conveyed through their words (and brings me back to their beats every time it gets a little grey out).
The production quality here is very polished, almost to the point of excessiveness in “Rhinestones” and “Playboy,” but Charlie Marie stops just short of overindulgent territory in both instances. She’ll need to rein in the sprawling size of these hooks a little more in the future, if for no other reason than to make the music a bit tighter, but I think I get what she was going for here. This EP has a poppy undertone in a handful of moments, and while it could have been inserted into the tracks a little better, it doesn’t stifle the flow of the music at all.
Marie’s vocal is woven directly into the fabric of the string melodies in “Playboy,” “Countryside” and “Rodeo,” and the seamless transitions between the verses in each of these songs speaks volumes about her skills as a singer. The meticulously designed master mix certainly helps her out, but I don’t get the idea that her performance would have been that much different were she singing in a live setting on this record. She’s got a voice that can move mountains, and with her noticeably improved discipline, she can do pretty much anything she wants with it in this extended play.
I can’t wait to hear more from this amazingly talented young woman, and hopefully it won’t be too much longer before we have the chance to hear what she can do with a full-length studio album. She’s made some noteworthy waves with this release as well as her 2015 debut (which was also a self-titled affair), and I don’t think there’s much of a debate as to whether or not she’s got the chops to make a complete LP. I look forward to reviewing that record, but in the meantime, this latest release is a more than satisfying acquisition for any audiophile.