REVIEW: Sherrie Austin “Circus Girl”

It’s fitting that Sherrie Austin’s new album is called “Circus Girl.”  With this project, the affable Australian singer/songwriter walks a high wire without a net.  The album is self-written, self-produced and self-financed.  Fortunately, we can apply one more “s-word” to Austin’s album:  Satisfying.

It’s been eight years since her last release.  It’s an understatement to say the country music landscape has changed a lot in that time.  It would’ve been easy for Austin to try to reinvent who she is to fit that landscape.  But instead of changing herself, she finds success simply by being herself.

Austin had a hand in writing every one of the 13 tracks on the album.  She gives each song the voice of one who has lived life and learned about herself with every step and misstep along the way.  It’s this voice of experience that gives the album its heart.

The album kicks off with the autobiographical title track “Circus Girl.”  Austin has spent most of her life as a performer.  While most of us can’t relate to what it’s like living your life in the spotlight, we can relate to sometimes feeling like a “round peg in a little town square”.  It’s okay to not fit in.  Happiness can be found if you approach life as fearless and confident as the girl on the trapeze.

“Tryin’ To Be Me” reflects on life and the “scars in the battle” of trying to be ourselves.  Austin wrote the track to pay homage to George Harrison.  The opening notes certainly will make any fan of the former Beatle think of his “All Things Must Pass” album.

The next two songs show that along with heart, Austin also has a wicked sense of humor.  “I Didn’t” rips a former lover for the differences that led to a breakup.  The biggest being “he thought he was God, and I didn’t”.  In “If I Was A Man,” she imagines how she would be if she were the opposite sex.  Naturally, she comes off as being Mr. Right until a surprise twist in the end.

(Note:  “I Didn’t” also appears on Kristin Chenoweth‘s “Some Lessons Learned” album.  Chenoweth recently performed an over-the-top version of the song during the American Country Awards.  It would be fun to see Austin perform it for comparison’s sake.)

“Just Want To Love You Tonight” steers the album back in a serious direction.  Austin tackles the issue of one night stands from the woman’s perspective.  The woman isn’t just a participant, but an instigator who along with her man, also lays down the ground rules.

“Get Your Leavin’ Done” continues the serious streak.  It’s the end of a relationship.  But instead of sorrow, the feeling is more one of resignation.  Austin conveys that she acknowledges that it’s over and now it’s time to move out so they can move on.

“He’s All Yours” is bold, bluesy and full of drama.  It’s both a kiss-off and a warning from one woman to another about a man who has done her wrong and will do the same to the next woman who falls for his lines.  Austin shines through in her powerful delivery of the song which must be a show-stopper live in concert.

“Bad For Me” is another light-hearted approach to love.  We all do things that we know are bad for us (like that extra Christmas cookie or two) and sometimes that includes who we choose to be with.  This song appeared a few years ago on Danielle Peck’s “Can’t Behave” album.  Austin reclaims it with vocal vigor and a banjo backing that gives it more of a country feel.

“Friday Night Girls” serves as an anthem for all the women out there who have reached a certain age where they see the game, but don’t feel the need to play it.  They have experienced the world and are smart and strong enough to handle all of its ups and downs – even if just for a Friday night.

“Sleep With Me” is brilliant take on infidelity.  The title of the song isn’t an invitation to someone else, but having to face the consequences from the decisions we make.  We all have to face ourselves in the mirror, where we see the one person we always have to sleep with.

“That Kind Of Happy” once again leans on life’s lessons.  This up-tempo shot of smartness is about realizing that happiness comes in all forms.  By letting go and accepting yourself for who you are, you’re able to find the kind of happy that doesn’t come with a matching set of sadness.

“Streets of Heaven” actually was the title track of Austin’s last album.  The deeply personal song is based on a family experience and is her highest-charting song to date.  She says she re-cut it for this album to remind herself that even though this is an independent release, she’s not the one who is ultimately in control – God is.

The Christmas song “Naughty Or Nice” puts a neat, little bow on the album.  It features Shane Stevens (who co-wrote “American Honey” for Lady Antebellum).  Holiday songs are risky as they can be hit or miss.  This one falls on the “hit” side and its funky rhythm will have fans rockin’ around the Christmas tree for years to come.

Score 8/10