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Jackson+Sellers bring passion and grittiness to 'Breaking Point'

DAVE DAVIES, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. Jade Jackson and Aubrie Sellers are singer-songwriters who each had solo careers before getting together as Jackson+Sellers and releasing a new debut album called "Breaking Point." Rock critic Ken Tucker says nothing the two women did as solo acts prepared anyone for the passion and grit of their collaboration.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE DEVIL IS AN ANGEL")

JACKSON+SELLERS: (Singing) Well, you look just like an angel. You sound so bright and true. You seem so sweet coming down my street, but the devil is an angel too. Yeah, the devil is an angel too. Somehow, you seem familiar.

KEN TUCKER, BYLINE: The debut album by Jade Jackson and Aubrie Sellers begins with a song not written by either woman, but by a kindred spirit, Julie Miller, whose sinister spookiness in "The Devil Is An Angel" is right up the alley of this Jackson+Sellers collection. These two women sound all too familiar with the idea that the devil can arrive in the form of an angel as one of their own songs about wasting their time on a guy who thinks he's wasting his time proves.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WASTE YOUR TIME")

JACKSON+SELLERS: (Singing) I think I left my mind with you in the dark, your hand on mine. Did I waste your time? Did I waste your time? Did I waste your time - like you wasted mine? Gem on my necklace...

TUCKER: Aubrie Sellers is the daughter of the superb country singer Lee Ann Womack, and Sellers' voice has its own distinctive twang. Jackson, raised in California and schooled by the music her country-loving parents played in the restaurant they ran, sings with a hard-boiled firmness. Their voices came together in an almost random way. Jackson had written a song she wanted harmonies for and DM'd Sellers on Instagram after hearing her sing. They liked what they heard together. And on an impulse, they booked time in a studio in East Nashville to work out songs like this.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE WILD ONE")

JACKSON+SELLERS: (Singing) I'm a red-hot fox. I can take the knocks. I'm a hammer from hell. Honey, can't you tell? I'm the wild one. Yes, I'm the wild one. I'm a touched-up freak on a winning streaking; gonna own this town. You can't hold me down. I'm the wild one. Yes, I'm the wild one. Well, it ain't no use. Turn me loose. More, more - I can't keep score. I've got my head screwed on...

TUCKER: That's Jackson+Sellers' cover of "The Wild One," a hit for Suzi Quatro in 1974. And it never sounded as good as this.

Between them, Jackson and Sellers have released four solo albums. Sellers' 2020 collection, "Far From Home," has some solid tunes worth checking out. Clearly, though, something happened when they got together. Some new way of looking at things, some new sound that neither of them had ever made individually was achieved. Take, for example, this song called "Has Been." Sullen and nervy with an air of weirdness, "Has Been" sounds like a song that would have been performed at the Roadhouse in an episode of David Lynch's "Twin Peaks."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HAS BEEN")

JACKSON+SELLERS: (Singing) You ain't nothin' but a has-been, so old news, so last year. You ain't nothin' but a has-been. Go ask anyone. Oh, you ain't nothin' but a used to be, a memory that's fading. You ain't nothin' but a used to be. Go ask anyone. They'll say has-been, past tense. They'll run away from you. Oh, you ain't nothin' but an old hat. It's so sad. It's too bad. You ain't nothin' but an old hat. Go ask anyone.

TUCKER: The operating paradox over the course of this album, "Breaking Point," is that Jackson and Sellers are new musical best friends who've bonded over a shared view that when it comes to romance, things are pretty bleak out there. Nevertheless, they sound positively elated to be so downbeat.

DAVIES: Ken Tucker reviewed "Breaking Point," the new debut album from Jackson+Sellers.

On tomorrow's show, we speak with Nikole Hannah-Jones. She created the New York Times' 1619 Project, marking the 400th anniversary of the arrival of enslaved Africans at the British colony of Virginia. It's now a book called "The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story." Hannah-Jones won a Pulitzer Prize for her essay in the project. I hope you can join us.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHARLIE HUNTER'S "MESTRE TATA")

DAVIES: FRESH AIR's executive producer is Danny Miller. Our technical director and engineer is Audrey Bentham, with additional engineering support from Mike Villers. Our interviews and reviews are produced and edited by Amy Salit, Phyllis Myers, Sam Briger, Lauren Krenzel, Heidi Saman, Therese Madden, Ann Marie Baldonado, Thea Chaloner, Seth Kelley and Kayla Lattimore. Our digital media producer is Molly Seavy-Nesper. Roberta Shorrock directs the show. For Terry Gross, I'm Dave Davies.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHARLIE HUNTER'S "MESTRE TATA") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.