Best Chameleon: Kassi Ashton
Performers with crossover potential have always had a place at CMA Fest, and Missouri native Kassi Ashton demonstrated that she can comfortably exist between the worlds of contemporary country and contemporary pop. Her debut single "California, Missouri" rang true about the frequently isolating, alienating aspects of small-town life, while another offering from her forthcoming debut boasted of her ability to throw down with her rural pals whenever she feels like city life is too suffocating. One of her tunes sounded like Shania Twain singing over the streamlined indie rock of Spoon, while the newly released "Taxidermy" took her offbeat threat of revenge (turning a no-good dude into wall art) and coupled it with a jagged, almost post-punk guitar riff. Her debut album doesn't have a release date yet, but rest assured it'll be a fascinating listen when it arrives. J.F.