Husband and wife duo Thompson Square’s new album, Just Feels Good, plays out like a Hollywood love story complete with the happy ending. If things start seeming too good to be true on the upbeat project, a quick review of Shawna and Keifer Thompson’s career trajectory quickly reveals ample real-life inspiration; paid dues scraping by as working musicians on Nashville’s Lower Broadway; co-wrote and released a breakout Grammy-nominated hit, “Are You Gonna Kiss Me Or Not”; named Billboard’s No. 1 New Country Artist in 2011; won CMA and ACM awards for Vocal Duo of the Year. And all of this as a married couple. It’s a wonderful story that translates excellently to their sophomore album, due in stores March 26.
Just Feels Good is as positive as its title suggests. Sure there are the dramatics found in songs like the album’s hit lead single, “If I Didn’t Have You,” a rock-solid power ballad bursting with harmonies, but the tale of what life would be like without the other really goes a long way in revealing our characters’ inner fears. Most of the 13-song set, however, focuses much more on a glass that’s half full. The serendipitous, “You Don’t Get Lucky,” marvels at how life works out while the tempo-driven, “Here We Go Again,” combines Taylor Swift-like melodies with varying rhythms and a helplessly in love outlook with the line, you and I can’t just be just friends. “That’s So Me and You” is a stargazing ballad celebrating the little things, and the uplifting “Run,” pairs inviting vocal passages with a seize-the-day mentality for a super-engaging hook.
Thompson Square co-wrote five of the songs on the album and are masters of the well-crafted hook. As in their earlier hits like “Are You Gonna Kiss Me Or Not” and “I Got You,” Shawna and Keifer’s dynamic chemistry and wonderful feel for a song make them a captivating pair as they move through bright passages. “Everything I Shouldn’t Be Thinking About,” the flirtatious album opener, stands on a pop/country foundation with snapping drums and handclaps before diving into a rolling harmony-driven chorus. “Here’s To Being Here” flies by on the strength of a steady kick-drum and a wave of sound in the chorus with the good-timin’ lines, Let’s crank it up to 10. And the cinematic “I Can’t Outrun You” re-envisions the song originally heard on Trace Adkins’ X with rising and falling vocals that beautifully match the song’s pulse before a race to the finish line. On an album that generally keeps the BPMs high, sing-alongs come often.
Produced by Thompson Square and the four-man New Voice collective, two of the biggest highlights on Just Feels Good are the risk-taking title-track and its sunny companion, “Testing the Water.” The former gives a fun-loving shout out to Tom Petty over a relaxed groove that borders on reggae while Keifer takes the lead with some exceptionally tight vocals. Shawna takes over on the funky, “Testing The Water,” turning in entertaining hip hop-influenced verses full of tongue twisters like, I don’t know where this is goin’ but I know what I’ve been thinkin’ since the sun started sinkin’ down, before a big soulful chorus.
Optimism abounds on Just Feels Good. From the bluesy, “For The Life Of Me,” to the stirring mid-tempo, “Maybe It’s You,” Shawna and Keifer make it a point to appreciate the one you’re with. Their natural and easy chemistry is constantly on display, as on “Home Is You,” which closes the album with an orchestra of melodies and a message that the only thing that matters is each other. It’s a wonderful ending to this chapter of their love story and one that leaves plenty of room for the next sequel.
Key Tracks – “Just Feels Good,” “For The Life Of Me,” “I Can’t Outrun You,” “If I Didn’t Have You”