Jamie O'Neal | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Jamie O'Neal

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Jamie O'Neal might disappoint anyone who expects a Nashville superstar to inhabit a single coherent persona. On her second disc, Brave (Liberty), the Australian-born, Vegas-bred singer-songwriter is all over the place, both stylistically and in terms of subject matter: she's a gritty Shania Twain on the poppy "Naive," a Gretchen Wilson stand-in on the shit-kicking "Girlfriends," and a faux Faith Hill on the sound-track-ready ballad "When Did You Know." Yet each impersonation is warm enough to reward your attention, and eventually a theme does emerge: the tension between wanting to live an extraordinary life and resigning oneself to an ordinary one. On "Trying to Find Atlantis" a woman keeps her chin up while seeking the "perfect man," while "Somebody's Hero" details the sacrifices a stay-at-home mom makes for her kids without getting all huffily family-values about it. (If you're not choked up after the last verse, in which her grown-up daughter visits her in a nursing home, it's official--you're immune to Nashville sentimentality.) Her final word, "I Love My Life," is an all-too-accepting vision of domestic paradise, but O'Neal has expressed enough regrets and reservations before it to put her happy ending in perspective. The Country Sky Band opens. Fri 1/20, 9 PM, Joe's, 940 W. Weed, 312-337-3486 or 312-559-1212, $10.

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