Cam – “The Otherside” Review

“The Otherside” comes almost five full years after CAM’s previous album “Untamed”. Paul Sammon gives his views on the Californian storyteller’s much-anticipated new release.

Normally I like to give an album a few goes before I think about putting fingers to keys, as it were. However, after my first listen to The Otherside I knew exactly what I wanted to say. I love it. And no, I don’t love everything I review. But Cam is back and, I’m pleased to say, on top form.

The opening track has you hearing a conversation between a woman who’s travelled, but then returns home after her folks have passed, and the Redwood Tree. It’s a reflective song, tinged with regret, while explaining that’s just how she is. “You’ve got your roots & I’ve got the wind – the wind in my soul.” Despite being driven by the kick drum and having a rapid tempo you’ll pick up on the sadness and you’ll feel for her.

I’ve always felt the title track should stand out from the rest of the album. Be “The Boss” of the songs. That’s kind of difficult when, as you’ll discover, all the songs are so damn good and because they’re so varied in style, arrangement or production each one sort of stands out on its own merits. That said, The Otherside has a dance vibe similar to the single, So Long, Cam recorded with Diplo. When country and dance is fused well, I like it and this track is produced so very well. Not too much of anything to saturate and ruin it. Just enough of everything. This is the right song for that, too. A tale of not quite revenge, but “Now you know how I felt.” Interestingly there are dance mixes already out there, plus Avicii’s writing session from February 2017 as well as his own unreleased version.

In her own words, (Check out Alison Dewar’s interview) Cam says, “Making something during a pandemic is very difficult and I wanted something that was bright and fun.” Classic is definitely fun. It just embodies happiness in a song. Happy times, happy memories, back when things were, well, happy. The video is great too, tipping her hat to the likes of Marilyn Monroe and Lucille Ball, referencing mix-tapes and big yellow taxis and I challenge you to not smile or tap your toes to this one.

If you fancy singing along to the album, Forgetting You will help you clear out the cobwebs. It’s a reminder that Cam’s talent isn’t just limited to writing good lyrics or knowing a good melody, it’s also the fact she has a great range to her voice. Starting softly, being reminded of her past love by pretty much everything she sees, building to a big chorus and then getting bigger towards the end. I look forward to, maybe, hopefully seeing her sing this live sometime in the future. Y’know, possibly, perhaps.

Angelic “Ooohhs” and a ukulele open for Like A Movie and I really, really like the lyrics. I’m picturing my own film, like a classic (no pun intended) 50’s black n white as the hero pulls in the damsel, they lock eyes and that spark happens for the first time. This track paints that picture perfectly. I was beaming ear to ear and thinking of times when the other half has said “That’s us, that is,” when we’re watching a good film.

Stripping it right back and allowing us to picture just her and a guitarist on stage, Changes could even be about the character in Redwood Tree and how she felt before she left her hometown for the big, wide world. It might be just me, but the melody has a hint of Burning House to it. See what you think. That isn’t a bad thing to repeat the formula that was so successful for Cam in the past, of course.

When an album is so long in the making you can sometimes forget the singles that came before, bearing in mind Till There’s Nothing Left came out eight months ago. I was like, “Oh my God, I remember this, it’s so good.” And then I remember thinking at the time it was a new sound for Cam. Now I see it sits so well in this almost eclectic album. As she points out herself, “I don’t really live by the rules of ‘Well, I’m a country artist so I need a banjo on this song’”

 A more traditional (in the modern sense) feel to What Goodbye Means. I mean, what respectable country album doesn’t reflect on divorce? Maybe it’s a lesson about how important listening and communication is in a relationship? I’m definitely sensing a message in this one and, you never know, it may prompt somebody, somewhere to take steps before it’s too late.

Can you believe it’s been almost three years since Diane was released into the world? Certainly, in the UK it still goes down a storm at Nash Nights. Because of its pop infusion and literally galloping pace everyone, and I mean everyone, sings along. In case you’ve been living under a rock, the song is a response to Jolene but from the side of the other woman. We hear about the relationship from the point of view of Jolene and what she’d say when she found out the guy was married. I hope he didn’t walk in when THAT conversation was taking place…

With church bells and then a little guitar intro that Tom Petty would have been proud of, Happier For You, reflects on the wedding she’s at and her feelings towards the groom that’s clearly her ex. She realises she’s not quite as over him as she thought and while everything is going on around her, she’s trying to convince herself she’ll be ok as she claims, “One day I’ll be happier, for you.” There’s guitars, organs, and strong vocals that will make this resonate with someone, that’s for sure.

And finally, to the last track on the album; a piano led ballad. Now, this song is a message, to any girl that wants to listen. She’s been there and she wants us to know, she understands the pain, but it gets better. Trust a person that’s been where you are and found the way back. Girl Like Me is a lovely end to a stunning album.

Alison found out that Cam’s intention was for this album to be seen as, “A mix-tape of my life and the life lessons.” I hope when you hear it, you’ll find a song for you. Suffice to say, this is a collection you’ll never tire of because there’s such a variety of themes and arrangements throughout. With no two tracks being the “same” I do believe each one could be released as a single in its own right. Hell, why not? It’s not like anyone will be touring anytime soon.

The Otherside CamTrack Listing

  1. Redwood Tree
  2. The Otherside
  3. Classic
  4. Forgetting You
  5. Like A Movie
  6. Changes
  7. Till There’s Nothing Left
  8. What Goodbye Means
  9. Diane
  10. Happier For You
  11. Girl Like Me

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