Amanda Shaw, “Amanda Shaw” (Independent)

reviews-amandashawThis would be Amanda Shaw’s big national swing-for-the-bleachers superstar bid if she had just turned 18; as it is, a lot of people still think of her as Louisiana’s sweetheart, Brenda Lee with a fiddle and even more Cajun flavor. She’s already reached the “ripe old age” of 26, as it turns out, but this new EP feels like a reset nonetheless—she loads up the front end with straight pop and shores up the back with a few well-chosen back-to-the-bayou roadtrips. Even so, she always sounds ready to step on stage at the CMAs; fortunately, because she’s taken the time to find herself in her tradition, it all works pretty well. “Busy Body” makes Chubby Carrier sound like Katy Perry, and it turns out to be an improvement? Yes.

And it’s still hard not to love her. She zipped right past puberty without going through that gross schoolgirl fantasy larval stage; she remains more Brenda and less Britney. “Red Plastic Cup” does the best job at shotgun-marrying her country sensibilities with her new pop ambition, working that old Swift-Gaga empowerment-through-partying thing, and the “champagne inside the cup” metaphor is a perfect distillation of her crossover sound, too. “Adieu Rosa” is the most traditional Cajun song here, while “Don’t Treat Me Like Your Woman” taps into a classic honkytonk strain that goes all the way back to Loretta Lynn, but “Crazy ‘Bout My Boy” is the real standout, a Pandora curator’s candyfloss dream. Her fiddle is still all over everything, too. Ironic that the actual teenage Amanda once defiantly declared I’m Not a Bubblegum Pop Princess, but now that her voice and her pen are as supple as her bow, she’s earned it. Just program out her re-retread of the Clash’s “Should I Stay or Should I Go,” which will not save anyone from the Upside Down.