When Rock Island, Illinois native Lissie debuted with Why You Runnin’ EP (QRO review), her alt-country was enjoyably not ‘too’ anything – not too stripped soul-baring, not too party-stomp, but just Lissie. Yet with first full-length Catching a Tiger, Lissie goes ‘too’ – too mainstream, too new country.
“Cuckoo” exemplifies the situation most starkly, some country-pop that could be found in today’s adult-contemporary radio, CMT, or anywhere that plays Jewel. It isn’t out-and-out bad, but you’d cringe seeing anyone singing along to it. “When I’m Alone” and “In Sleep” are some slyer nighttime pop, more eighties than nineties, but still firmly in the mainstream. There’s decently enjoyable alt-country/rock such as opener “Record Collector” or middle piece “Loosen the Knot”, but neither are anywhere near as good as the standout of both Runnin’ & Tiger, “Little Lovin'” – not even as good as Runnin’‘s “Wedding Bells” or “Here Before”, neither of which carried over from the EP to the LP.
What did carry over were the two near-spiritual pieces on Runnin’, “Everywhere I Go” and “Oh Mississippi”. Such hymnal-like work is hard to pull off, and it feels out of place on Catching a Tiger, as does the more gospel new piece “Bully” and girl group, harmony-cute, She & Him (QRO live review)-ish “Stranger”. The only truly interesting stab at something new is “Worried About”, which mixes country-rock with the rhythmic singer/songstress of the eighties, like Tracy Chapman or Suzanne Vega (QRO photos).
Lissie got a lot of attention after Why You Runnin’, opening for the alt-country likes of Ray LaMontagne, A.A. Bondy (QRO album review) & The Low Anthem (QRO spotlight on), not to mention being the ‘guest female vocalist’ for artists across the spectrum. On Catching a Tiger, however, she’s unfortunately been Runnin’ towards the mainstream.