Credit: Harper Smith
by Jonathan Keefe Music Rooted & Restless

Cam | The Otherside

January 15, 2021

Cam remains a talent worth following, but The Otherside doesn’t make it clear where she’s going.

Since releasing her well-regarded debut, Untamed, in 2015, Cam has released new music in fits and starts: Single “Diane” earned raves all the way back in 2017, “Road to Happiness” and “Redwood Tree” both failed to make any headway at country radio, and she was the featured vocalist on “So Long,” the lead single from Diplo’s country-adjacent EDM record. Ultimately, none of the music she’s released in the last five years has come anywhere close to replicating the success she found with “Burning House,” a chart-topping country-folk ballad that positioned her as a truly distinctive voice in country music. In a bit of a chicken-or-egg quandary, that lack of traction has been both the direct result of and the source of further restlessness in Cam’s aesthetic. That comes to a head on her proper sophomore album, The Otherside: The album barely scans as country music in any meaningful sense, to the extent that those kinds of genre parameters ever matter, but it doesn’t ever resolve into a singular statement of artistic voice or intent. “Diane,” a flipped-perspective on Dolly Parton’s classic “Jolene,” is included on the album and is easily the highlight of the set: Cam’s vocal turn is fiery and makes for a defiant rejoinder to having been cast as the proverbial Other Woman. It’s Cam’s singing that elevates the album: She’s able to maneuver between the enthusiasm of the love-struck feelings of “Classic” and the melancholy of “Forgetting You,” and there’s a real sense of warmth and empathy to all of her performances. That’s important, because the songwriting rarely rises above solid, and the overall production aesthetic is simply just plain. If anything, The Otherside sounds somewhat dated, like a late 1990s “folktronica” record with better engineering. Cam remains a talent worth following, but The Otherside doesn’t make it clear where she’s going.

Published as part of Album Roundup: Oct. – Dec. 2020 | Part 2.