Passionate Kisses (10/23/98)
Kate Campbell, Visions of Plenty (Compass Records 1998) - Mississippi-born Kate Campbell returns with her third album, Visions of Plenty. With a mix of Americana and Nashville country, Campbell draws the listener effortlessly with her articulate and provocative lyrics.
Campbell drew widespread acclaim with her debut album, Songs From the Levy. For the new album, Campbell has recruited such guests as Emmylou Harris, Kevin Gordon and Spooner Oldham.
Both simple and sincere, Campbell is the daughter of a Baptist preacher. Her husband is now a Chaplain, and until recently, Kate was a history teacher at Middle Tennessee State University.
With songs like "Jesus and Tomatoes" and the spooky "Bus 109," Campbell is eager to pursue the southern storyteller tradition. For a slice from the other side of Nashville, try Visions of Plenty.
Lucinda Williams, Car Wheels on a Gravel Road (Mercury 1998) - Lucinda Williams' "comeback" album has been widely stated as one of the best albums of the year. Add my vote: Car Wheels on a Gravel Road is a delight.
Lucinda Williams has been making records for nearly 20 years, though her output stands at a meager five disks. Attribute that to her demanding standards: "Car Wheels on a Gravel Road" was six years in the making.
And that's six years of hard work. Lucinda completed the initial recordings three years ago in Texas, then brought the tapes to Nashville, where she met Steve Earle. Earle, who is making a comeback himself, helped Lucinda re-record the album, before Lucinda took it to Los Angeles for final recording sessions with Roy Bittan of Bruce Springsteen's E-Street Band.
Despite it tortured history, Car Wheels is a terrific serving of southern roots and blues, with plenty of dobro, slide guitar, and other Twangtrust arrangements.
Rising above all is Lucinda's voice, which is equal parts honey and whiskey. With tracks that drip with authentic southern atmosphere such as "Concrete and Barbed Wire," "Lake Charles," and the upbeat "Metal Firecracker," Lucinda is a true talent. In particular, Williams has learned how to channel her vocals to give a rich undertone to her songs.
Albums like Car Wheels on a Gravel Road restore faith in the recording process. Like a rootsier Sheryl Crow, Williams has crafted an Americana gem in Car Wheels on a Gravel Road. Don't miss this album.
Lucinda Williams, Lucinda Williams (Koch 1998) - With her reentry into the pop mainstream, Koch has reissued Lucinda Williams' 1988 recordings for the Rough Trade label. While the studio tracks tend toward slick urban country, the bonus live tracks reveal the depth of Williams' roots style.
Williams doesn't fit easily into the polished country sound, as she longs to let her hair down on such tracks as "Side of the Road" (better live than in the studio). Williams also wrote the song "Passionate Kisses," for which both she and Mary Chapin-Carpenter won Grammy Awards. (The original studio recording of this track is on Lucinda Williams.)
The reissue also includes comprehensive liner notes, including lyrics to the songs and a complete discography. Hats off to Koch for bringing back this long-lost friend.
Parlor James, Old Dreams (Sire 1998) - Delivering their first full-length album is the pair of Ryan Hedgecock and Amy Allison. With a sound that is both retro and forward looking, Old Dreams defies easy categorization.
Old Dreams was recorded by Malcolm Byrne in New Orleans and has the unsettling feel of work by such producers as Froom & Blake or Daniel Lanois.
Hedgecock (formerly of Lone Justice) and Allison (daughter of pianist Mose Allison), formed in 1994, and have one EP behind them, 1996's Dreadful Sorry.
For Old Dreams, Hedgecock and Allison provide all instrumental and vocals, and are joined by producer Byrne on keyboards, Gloria McElrith from Tricky's Band and Don Heffington on drums. The tracks on Old Dreams range from "Clementine" (the 19th Century song) to "The Pain I'm In" to "House of Flesh & Bone."
Hedgecock and Allison make a compelling duo, with their introspective mix and subdued recording style. Fans of avant-garde rock will enjoy Old Dreams.
- Randy Krbechek © 1998
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