The difference between the emotions most country rookies plumb and those Cryner taps with her striking debut album is the difference between a single tear and a real good cry. Country music in recent years has moved away from stark tales of love gone sour in favor of bland, vaguely uplifting professions of undying love. Cryner goes counter to the trend with these 10 songs, six of which she wrote or co-wrote. Not only is she a first-rate singer--her performance here suggests that anything is possible for her in the years ahead--but also an accomplished writer who isn’t afraid (in a song like “I’m Through Waitin’ on You”) to tell her man what’s what. She handles the ultra-dramatic romantic showdown in “I Think It’s Over Now” without sounding glib or slipping into bathos. The Northern California native’s voice is big and thick, at times evoking the sly, sideways drawl of K.T. Oslin, at others the syllable twisting ability of Reba McEntire. A more accurate analogy, however, may be to George Jones: Like the ol’ Possum, Cryner grabs hold of a word or a phrase and squeezes, until every last bit of meaning comes bleeding out.
She turns in a sprightly duet with Dwight Yoakam on Buck Owens’ “I Don’t Care,” but it’s the ballads where she’s at her best. In Carl Jackson and Jim Weatherly’s “Too Many Tears Too Late,” she injects a lifetime of hurt into a phrase as short as “sleepless nights, countless tears / It seems like I’ve cried for years.” It shouldn’t be long before her name starts appearing regularly among the “Female Vocalist of the Year” nominations.