Jennifer Nettles' Playing With Fire is an uncompromising working woman's album that the rest of her fans will enjoy from a safe distance.

The level of self-exploration Nettles does on the best songs from her second solo album is astonishing — maybe even frightening. "Three Days in Bed," a ballad written and originally recorded by Holly Williams, is the height of her her raw analyzation. With little accompaniment she sings of fantasizing about wild tryst with a Frenchman. It's convincing, to say the least.

"The clock never stops and I hate this damn phone / Some days I wanna run from the place I call home / Guess I'm just needin’ some danger / Give me three days in bed with a stranger." 

Brandy Clark's influence is felt all over Playing With Fire. She co-wrote several songs, and others she didn't inspire are often as dark as songs like "Chaser" and "Drunk in Heels," an uptempo answer to the 5 o'clock disaster many working mothers come home to find on a daily basis.

"Stupid Girl" is another that finds Nettles working through something of an identity crisis. She's a mother, but with a 3-year-old at home, she's no longer just a mother. The singer finds herself coming out of that cocoon, and she's got questions and insecurities. Most of the time she lands on optimism. "Way Back Home" is perhaps the best representative of Playing With Fire. On this piano-driven vocal showcase she's shedding her armor, owning her errors and proudly stepping toward an unknown future.

Often great albums aren't obvious, and Nettles first album on Big Machine takes effort to access. Few songs rely on hooks. Most rely on lyrical depth and pure artistry. The 41-year-old turns inward on Playing With Fire, and the opinion of the result will depend on if you feel inclined to turn inward with her.

Key Tracks: "Drunk in Heels," "Three Days in Bed," "Way Back Home"

Did You Know?: Clark co-wrote seven of the 12 songs on Playing With Fire.

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