'Cut to Impress' by Maggie Rose is one of the more entertaining listens of the year. Fans will either embrace the dark, swampy sound the singer creates with producer James Stroud, or they'll be terrified by her bad girl persona and downright chilling stories. The album is no teddy bear.

'Preacher's Daughter' and 'Looking Back Now' are two songs that really stop a listener in their tracks. Both rely on a fusion of blues and country to tell a story that at the last moment turns into tragedy. Rose -- formerly known as Margaret Durante -- is a good (not yet great) storyteller capable of matching the strength of both songs' lyrics.

There's some first-timer hesitancy on many of the album's 10 tracks. She's confident singing songs like the sexy lead single 'I Ain't Your Mama,' and especially the two closing tracks. But it's not quite the same confidence of a woman who's cut two or three albums. Rose doesn't quite own her audience until the very end, during the project's most complete track, 'Goodbye Monday.' The song sounds like it may have been the last one recorded, cut at a time when everyone involved was able to let loose and perform with abandon.

Strength of song is not a problem, however. 'Fall Madly in Love With You' is a highlight that leans on a radio-friendly hook as contagious as cooties in kindergarten. 'Better' and 'Hollywood' are also great in very different ways -- the former being one of very few moments of vulnerability on 'Cut to Impress.'

It could use more like it. Country music is unique in that fans need to love the singer and the music. Rose is at her best singing dark, sexy, rowdy, Muscle Shoals-inspired country songs. The ones that ask her to share her fears take more effort, but one or two hits from the heart would really round out this debut project.

3 Stars