By Bob Doerschuk

© 2010 CMA Close Up® News Service / Country Music Association®, Inc.

Meghan Linsey came to Nashville from New Orleans, where by the time she was 15 she had already opened for Gary Allan, Brad Paisley, Blake Shelton and Travis Tritt, among other headliners. Her future partner Joshua Scott Jones had started writing and performing at 13 before leaving Charleston, Ill., for Los Angeles. He gigged at some of the city’s top alternative venues, though not enough to escape a borderline homeless lifestyle. Eventually, he wound up in Nashville too.

Then, during karaoke night at a club in Printer’s Alley in Downtown Nashville, they met and realized that their styles meshed. This was confirmed when they won top honors on the 2009 season of CMT’s “Can You Duet” as Steel Magnolia. Their prize included a deal with Big Machine Records, who released the duo’s debut five-song Steel Magnolia EP in February.

Written by Chris Stapleton and Trent Willmon, their first single, “Keep On Lovin’ You” peaked at No. 4 and became the highest-charting debut single from a male/female Country duet on the Billboard Hot Country Songs Chart. A catchy guitar lick kicks it off, but the payoff is in the vocals: Jones takes the first verse with an approachable, almost conversational delivery; Linsey sparkles on the second, rising quickly from a honeyed intimacy into an explosive, soulful chorus.

There, as in the lines they trade and thread together on “Ooh La La” and in the buildup from a laconically humorous opening to the emotional finale of “The Edge of Goodbye,” Jones and Linsey blend their vocals artfully without losing the characteristics that make each of them unique. Their writing shines too; in addition to penning these two songs, Jones and Linsey wrote or co-wrote seven of their debut album’s 12 tracks.

Produced by Dann Huff and scheduled for release Sept. 21, this self-titled debut proves that Steel Magnolia can duet — and do it memorably.

Steel Magnolia Photo Provided by Country Music Association


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