If you're going to invade the clubhouse that Brooks & Dunn and Montgomery Gentry call home, you don't tap on the door -- you blow it off the hinges. That's exactly what the duo Blue County have done with "Good Little Girls," which is basically a tomcat's yowl set to a beat. Not since Hank Williams Jr.'s "Women I've Never Had" has country music witnessed such transparent and unapologetic leering.
"Good Little Girls" is still rocketing toward the top of the charts, and on the strength of that debut single alone, Blue County have netted an Academy of Country Music nomination for top vocal duo, placing them in the starry company of B&D and MG. Blue County, the album, was released April 6. Co-produced by Dann Huff and Doug Johnson, it is a pleasant blend of high spirits and back-home sentimentality.
Blue County are comprised of former gospel singer Aaron Benward and former The Young and the Restless Star Scott Reeves. Although the two have been friends since they met on a music video set in 2000, they did not experiment with singing together until last year.
Of their first meeting, Reeves recalls, "I was in Nashville guest-appearing in a Tamara Walker video for a song called 'Didn't We Love.' A friend of mine said, 'Let's give my buddy Aaron Benward a call and hang.' So Aaron came over to the set, and literally from the moment we met, it was like we were brothers. And it's been that way ever since." Adds Benward, "It was really weird. We had the same likes, dislikes. Had the same dreams and ambitions. Our personalities were incredibly alike. It was like we had the same mom. We're still looking for her."
Around the time that they met, both men were contemplating career changes. Benward had just released his first album as a solo gospel artist after having worked with his father in a gospel duo called Aaron Jeoffrey. The next year, Reeves departed his long-running role as Ryan McNeil on the soap opera.
While they continued to seek out individual projects, it also occurred to the two friends they might find work together. Their first collaboration was writing a screenplay -- and that's how they came up with their name. Reeves explains, "We said, 'Let's write a movie where we play brothers,' because people [mistook] us for brothers all the time. So we wrote a screenplay, and the story takes place in Blue County, which is a fictitious location."
Benward says that the idea of singing together didn't come up until they were having a phone conversation in February 2003. During their discussion, they concluded that Benward would sing lead, while Reeves would handle harmonies and the primary guitar chores. "I think the fact that we established a strong friendship and a strong history with each other is one of the reasons that this works so well," Benward muses. "That was one of the questions I had going into this [after] singing with my dad all those years. There's nothing tighter on earth when it comes to music than singing with the family. So that was my big question when we decided to do this together. ... We were sitting down in my living room with our guitars, and we began to sing some songs I had written, and it was like family harmony all over again."
Once the two decided to form a duet, their manager, Mitchell Solarek, and their publisher, Ree Guyer Buchanan, arranged an audition at Curb Records. Without even a demo CD as a calling card, they went in with just their guitars and cinched the deal. "We never recorded anything until we cut our first single," Benward says. "That was the first thing we ever put on tape." They signed to Curb "in late March or early April" of 2003. In May, they cut "Good Little Girls" and "That Summer Song." Then they went on a four-month radio tour and didn't return to complete the album until last fall.
Blue County makes no mention of Reeves' soap opera past in its publicity material. Reeves says they deliberately left it out so the focus would be entirely on their music. "I wanted people to appreciate what we were doing for the music," he explains. "People tend to attach a stigma to your previous career. I didn't want that, 'Oh, it's an actor trying to jump over into music.' I didn't want that to be people's first impression."
Most of the songs on Blue County come from such chart-tested pros as Troy Seals, Brett James, Lee Thomas Miller, Tommy Lee James, Doug Johnson and Don Schlitz. But Reeves and Benward are co-writers on four tunes. "Aaron's been writing songs for eight years," Reeves says, "but I just kind of delved into that world a year ago."
One of the songs they co-wrote with Miller, "That's Cool," is expected to be Blue County's next single. It's a low-key recitation of things that matter as life goes on. Presumably it's what happens once you're past the zeal for good little girls.