When: Wed., July 8, 8 p.m. 2015
JO DEE MESSINA WEDNESDAY, JULY 8
CAROLINA THEATRE, DURHAM—Whatever Faustian pact Nashville made to cross country music into the mainstream during the last decade, the deal has had its drawbacks. Some are obvious (Luke Bryan, anyone?) and some a bit less so, like the average shelf life of a country star. In another era, Jo Dee Messina—who started scoring hits in 1996 before earning a dozen Top 10 singles—should have had little trouble keeping her recording career on track for 20 years. Now, though, most artists of the 44-year-old's vintage start looking at stardom in the rearview mirror soon. Still, after almost a decade since releasing an album, Messina managed to buck the odds and land her 2014 LP, the crowdfunded and self-released Me, in the country Top 20.
Running counter to expectations has been Messina's mode since the start. Consider her hits—"Heads Carolina, Tails California," "I'm Alright," "Bye Bye," "My Give a Damn's Busted"—or, rather, her lack of the doe-eyed torch songs on which so many of her contemporaries depended. Without making a shtick out of it, Messina presented herself in song as a strong, independent woman with plenty of attitude. She favored the bluesy, rocking side of the country spectrum over lachrymose power balladry. Mainstream country could use a few more folks like her. Miranda Lambert and Kacey Musgraves can't do it all alone, can they?
Between Me and 2005's gold-selling Delicious Surprise, Messina may not have maintained a particularly high profile, but she kept busy. She got married, had a couple of kids and even tried subverting the conventional album format by releasing an LP's worth of songs with three EPs. But Me, which kicks off with the very clear mission statement "Not Dead Yet" and includes the hard-driving day-in-the-life-of-a-mom anthem "A Woman's Rant," shows her fire hasn't diminished a bit. Whether she's tackling her new tunes or her older hits in concert (hint: expect both), you're bound to wonder how modern country radio still carries too many male voices with the likes of her around. 8 p.m., $32–$73.50, 309 W. Morgan St., Durham, 919-560-3030, www.carolinatheatre.org. —Jim Allen