Like many before her, newcomer Leah Turner is no stranger to paying her dues and honing her songwriting craft. Her debut single "Take the Keys," which she co-wrote with Cary Barlowe (Lady Antebellum's "American Honey") and Jesse Frasure (Luke Bryan), is a carefree uptempo ditty that could take this born-n-raised ranch girl to the bright lights of superstardom. She might be from Southern California, but her twangy authenticity is vibrant on her Columbia Nashville debut, owed in large part to her father's career as a championship header in the rodeo, no less.
Possessing a husky vocal quality, Leah digs her nails deep into significant traditional influences (ranging from Lorretta Lynn to Mary Chapin Carpenter) on the nearly four-minute track. She then wraps her roots tightly into a pop-country sass found on nearly any Miranda Lambert or Carrie Underwood anthem, but presenting a warm charm all her own. The melody is breezy, easily one of the catchiest female releases this year, which goes for radio adds on Oct. 7.
Leah makes sure to pay homage to the rock legends that have clearly impacted her artistic direction. In the lyrics, she name drops the Rolling Stones and speaks directly to small-town life and "getting caught in the same routines," a common theme found in many of country music's greatest songs (Dolly Parton's "9 to 5," anyone?). On the chorus, she belts, "We'll be singing out loud to the Rolling Stones, making up the lines that we don't know."
With the current pop trend permeating the mainstream, "Take the Keys" fits snuggly between Taylor Swift's and Kelly Clarkson's latest offerings; "Red" and "Tie It Up" (respecitvely) borrow heavily from arena-style rock. There is enough for really any kind of country music fan to sink their teeth into here (although, purists might not be too keen to care for it). Similar in structure to such blockbuster hits as Florida Georgia Line's "Cruise" and even Blake Shelton's "Boys Round Here," Leah's spin at the wheel is markedly more tolerable and fun-loving than anything her male counterparts are offering. Seal of approval!
Overall Grade: B+