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Beauty and Brains (07/14/2000) Write to CD Shakedown

Rebecca Lynn HowardRebecca Lynn Howard, Rebecca Lynn Howard (MCA Nashville 2000) - 20-year-old Kentucky native Rebecca Lynn Howard is another fresh face from Nashville. On her 12-song debut, Howard shows an assured style, blending traditional Nashville elements with cross-over elements on such songs as the tender "Melancholy Blue."

Rebecca Lynn HowardSays Rebecca (who wrote or co-wrote 10 of the tunes), "This record is really diverse. There are songs stretching from modern day contemporary all the way back to really traditional country. There are a lot of different sides to me and when people hear my music, I think they'll come to know me."

The new album was recorded with producer Mark Wright and a host of session hands, including Dan Dugmore on acoustic guitar, Steve Cropper and Brent Rowan on electric guitar, Paul Franklin on steel guitar, Stuart Duncan and Larry Franklin on fiddle, and Steve Nathan on piano and keyboards.

Rebecca Lynn Howard"Move Me" has an up-tempo, bouncy country feel, and "When My Dreams Come True" and "Tennis in My Windshield" are both driven by electric guitars with a touch of twang, but "I Don't Paint Myself Into Corners" and "You're Not a Memory Yet" both develop the ballad side of Rebecca.

Yet the standout track is "Melancholy Blue," with its understated string section echoing Rebecca's sweet voice.

Rebecca Lynn HowardNot only is Rebecca an accomplished singer, her songs have also been recorded by the likes of Reba McEntire and Jon Michael Montgomery. Rebecca also contributed the song, "Softly and Tenderly," to the Grammy-winning soundtrack to "The Apostle."

Howard was signed to both Rising Tide Records and Decca before finding a home at MCA Nashville. Rebecca has a philosophical spin on the label turmoil, stating "Everything happens for a reason. That's my motto and the attitude I took through this up-and-down process. And it's proved to be a pretty good thing. I've got a lot of support behind me, I'm a lot more mature, and I've got songs that came out of all that stuff that happened."

Let this Nashville newcomer audition for you.

Don HenleyDon Henley, Inside Job (Warner Bros. 2000) - Don Henley is (or at least was) a Rock God. Inside Job is his first new recording in a decade. Does it hold up? Only in parts. And that's disappointing, because Henley has a voice that is achingly good.

Donald Hugh Henley was raised in East Texas, where he was introduced to a variety of musical influences, ranging from Elvis Presley to Kitty Wells to Bob Wills. (Click here for a semi-humorous story about Don Henley's URL dispute with a religious eccentric named Don Henley.)

Henley started in a band with Jim Ed Norman (currently president of Warner/Reprise Nashville), and relocated to Los Angeles in 1970, where he met up with the young Glenn Frey (who was then in a duo with John David Souther).

Don HenleyHenley and Frey teamed to form the Eagles, selling 15 million copies of the classic Hotel California, and more than 26 million copies of Greatest Hits 1971-75 (surpassing Michael Jackson's Thriller as the biggest-selling U.S. album).

Henley followed with three solo albums in the 80s, including Building the Perfect Beast (with the hit single, "The Boys of Summer") and The End of the Innocence (1989).

Since then, Henley has been involved with the Walden Woods Project, which has raised more than $22 million for the preservation of environmentally-sensitive and historically-significant acres in the Walden Pond environs.

Sharon SummerallHenley also spearheaded the Common Thread collection from 1993, an all-star country tribute that was named 1994's "Album of the Year" by the Country Music Association, and participated in the historic Eagles reunion concerts. In addition, Henley married long-time girlfriend Sharon Summerall of Dallas, in May 1995, and is now the father of two young children.

Which mental state leads to Inside Job. Says Henley, "My approach is to let the material evolve; to try to achieve a balance of tempos, textures, subject matter, and emotions. I had a good, long gestation period and after a while, these things start kicking around and they have to come out. Since today's musical climate seems to fluctuate between bubble gum and unintelligible ranting, I would like to think that there's a place out there for my stuff."

Don HenleyHenley started pre-production work on the album in 1997, and continued in the studio during 1998 and 1999. The album was produced in collaboration with Stan Lynch (formerly of Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers), and includes appearances from such friends and fellow musicians as Randy Jackson, Benmont Tench, Jimmie Vaughan, Bob Glaub, Stewart Smith, Mike Campbell, and Danny Kortchmar (click here for a great vintage interview with Henley and Kootch).

Don and SharonWhat's good? "Everything Is Different Now," "My Thanksgiving" (with its reflective lyrics), and, especially, "Miss Ghost" with a driving beat and traces of Robbie Robertson's snakey sound and mysterious stories.

Inside Job isn't a bad album, nor would it be substantially aided by a trimming (though it clocks in at a hefty 70-plus minutes). Henley takes his time on each of the songs, and lets them run their course. For example, "Taking You Home" is a pleasing ballad, though it again clocks in at a healthy 5:31. Yet the album simply comes up short on memorable songs, no matter how hard you look.

The Southern gentlemenStill, Henley maintains an astute perspective on his fame. Says the artist, "After a couple of decades of being a public figure, a person grows tired of his own face. If this malaise is allowed to continue unchecked, it can deteriorate and lead to a loss of enthusiasm and a withering of creativity. One day you wake up and you're wearing the pathetic clown suit."

Henley escapes the clown suit on Inside Job. Don't be afraid to try Inside Job. Just keep your expectations closer to earth.

- Randy Krbechek © 2000

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