Jamie Lynn Spears, McGrath Amphitheater, Cedar Rapids, IA

By
 Cedar Rapids, IA, ( July 4, 2014)
 

Brittney Spears can be a tough act to follow. When she’s your older sister, it can be even more difficult to establish yourself as a star in your own right. Jamie Lynn Spears is working hard to do just that. Her initial success came in acting, and she even had her own series on Nickelodeon. The birth of her child led to a few years’ hiatus, during which time she decided to change direction and focus on songwriting and country music. 

Jamie’s style of country couldn’t be any farther removed from the provocative songs and performances that made sis Brittney a major star. Her voice isn’t quite as strong as Brittney’s, but she does have her own stage presence which is very down home and accessible. Within the first few moments of her concert, I found myself really liking her, both as a subject of my photos and as a performer.

 First, I need to get the negative stuff out of the way. There were two things about Jamie’s concert that tarnished an otherwise wonderful Fourth of July event. First, at one point in time she invited her band to pick the next song. The guitar player started the intro to Guns n Roses’ “Sweet Child of Mine”. The audience cheered. Jamie stood there looking at the guitar player as if to say “I don’t know the words to this song”.

 After a moment, he segued into the intro to Aerosmith’s “Walk this Way’. They did part of the song, with the band doing most of the singing, then the guitar player started playing the “Star Spangled Banner”. Everyone, Jamie included, seemed unsure whether this was supposed to be an intro to another song, or we were supposed to stand and sing the National Anthem. 

The whole situation was awkward and embarrassing. Jamie deserved better. 

The second issue was the intonation problems that plagued the last few songs (after the awkward moments). I will say that Jamie had been fiddling with her earpiece monitor all night, so if she couldn’t hear herself clearly, that can lead to intonation problems. Or she may just have been tired.

 That’s it for the negative stuff,and I for one chalked it up to just having a bad night. Most of the concert up to that point was top quality, foot stomping, line dancing country at its finest.

 Jamie is a solid singer, but her real strength lies in her songwriting. You can tell she has put a lot of effort into writing honest, heartfelt songs about her upbringing and the things that matter in her life. While the audience gave a rousing response to “Shotgun Wedding” one of her hits, I thought the best song of the night was “How Could I Want More”, written about her husband Jamie Watson. In this song, she questions why it is she seems unsatisfied with the sort of man who’s “…got the kinda heart any girl would die for.”

 

Jamie speaks with pride about her upbringing in Louisiana and Mississippi, as well as about the songs she has written. I could tell that the songs, and her being taken seriously as a songwriter and singer, are very important to her. She’s not above poking fun at her relationship with Brittney and her notoriety. She sneaks in a few lines from “Oops, I Did It Again” into “Miss Mississippi”. It’s a wry twist in a song about being a country girl who goes mudding with her man and has two bird dogs on the front porch.

 

In the end, I really enjoyed the concert, despite the issues toward the end. It wasn’t just that Jamie’s songs are solid and her performance does them justice. Sure, part of it is that, thanks to the same gene pool she shares with her sister, she looks great in photos. More than anything, I enjoyed seeing her step out from under her sister’s shadow and work to make a name for herself as Jamie Lynn Spears, singer/songwriter, rather than Jamie Lynn Spears, Brittney’s little sister.

 Bravo Jamie.

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