Kimberly Dunn’s new EP ‒ New Smoke Show, Volume 1 ‒ demonstrates the combination of musical talent and songwriting skills that made her January performance at The Lariat so memorable. With a pitch-perfect voice reminiscent of a young Reba McEntire, Dunn delivers the songs with a passion that can only come from living what she sings about.
Recorded at Nashville’s Sound Emporium, New Smoke Show benefits from the talents of producer Chad Carlson, known for his work on albums by Taylor Swift and Trisha Yearwood. The EP begins with a thumping drum- and bass-driven rhythm accentuated by sinister electric guitar riffs. Titled “High Horse,” the song is an ode to the type of overbearing social-climbing narcissist that could ruin anyone’s day. Dunn’s lyrics reveal the shallow truth about such a self-absorbed individual through a song that rocks harder than most country music.
New Smoke Show’s rocking opener transitions to “Traffic,” a more traditional, danceable country number that finds Dunn celebrating getting stuck in traffic. With “a lot of time to think, sitting here in traffic,” she realizes, “you’re no good for me, just another bad habit.” Getting stuck in traffic ironically helps her decide to move on and avoid getting stuck in a toxic relationship.
Next up, “Stand On It,” injects another dose of country rock into New Smoke Show. Dunn called the song her favorite on the new album. “I don’t fit in a box; I stand on it,” she sings, reflecting her individuality as an artist in an industry that literally puts music in boxes with specific labels.
The EP takes a melancholy turn back to traditional country with “Until We Never Meet Again,” in which Dunn laments, “If I could add up all the sorrys, keep ’em in a jar, I’d have a mansion, not this apartment, to hide this broken heart,” concluding, “You can pay me back by never coming back until we never meet again.”
“You Belong With Her” picks up the pace again but with a distinctive country two-step flavor as Dunn sings about rejecting a cheater who wants her back after getting a taste of his own medicine.
The mellow, intimate “Lonestar” closes out New Smoke Show, Volume 1 with a note of sweetness and regret about a doomed relationship between an angel of a man and a lonely gypsy dreamer (Dunn) who has to “keep on rollin’.”
Altogether, the songs on Dunn’s latest release add up to a solid entry in her musical canon. Dunn said she originally intended for the album to have “an un-fairy tale theme … but none of those songs actually made it onto the album. … I really wanted an album with songs that would be entertaining live – high-energy songs, more rock but still with a few intimate moments.”
With guitarists Scott Willson and Kyle Samuel, bassist Pat Seals and drummer Josh Rodgers complementing Dunn’s vocals, New Smoke Show displays plenty of musical talent.
The EP is available on iTunes, Amazon and Spotify, and Dunn expects to release five additional tracks as New Smoke Show, Volume 2 before year’s end. In the meantime, music fans can catch Dunn and her band live at The Lariat Saturday, July 8.