When you launch your career with a brilliant and timely single, as Maddie Marlow and Tae Dye did with "Girl in a Country Song," it gets a little tough to manage expectations.

The duo's debut "Start Here" (Big Machine) does not have anything to match their smart and savvy single that lampoons the objectification of women in country hits while using the same trappings of a bro-country hit. That would have been a tough order in any case.

Instead, Maddie & Tae use their album to put their spin on more traditional forms of country, cowriting all 11 of the tracks. On "Shut Up and Fish," they shake up country song stereotypes again by complaining about a lovestruck boyfriend whose chattering is scaring away the fish. On "Sierra," they take on a former friend with a playful edge similar to the one that made the Dixie Chicks stars, as they declare, "That high horse you're ridin' can buck you off quick."

Even on more conventional songs like "Smoke," Maddie & Tae's harmonies make them special, ensuring that "Start Here" is only the beginning of big things for them.

 

MADDIE & TAE

"Start Here"

THE GRADE B+

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BOTTOM LINE The promising female duo builds its own brand of country.