She Was Country When Country Wasn’t Cool: A Tribute to Barbara Mandrell – Various Artists
When you “retire” at 48 to go to Hollywood and pursue acting, you have to wonder what the reaction might be in Music City. But 10 years later, Nashville still embraces Texan Barbara Mandrell, as evidenced by this new BNA Records tribute.
Mandrell was the queen of country in the late ’70s and early ’80s, with hits such as “Sleeping Single in a Double Bed” and “Crackers.” Her TV variety series brought her into the national spotlight each week. Old pal Reba McEntire and Kenny Chesney launch this tribute album with the title song, which was a No. 1 smash back in 1981. Brad Paisley performs “In Times Like These,” and Gretchen Wilson performs “The Midnight Oil.” These dozen remakes serve as a reminder that the “Princess of Steel” was definitely country and cool. Now if we could just lure her out of retirement! A
These Days – Vince Gill
Wonder where Vince Gill’s been the last few years? Recording, as in 43 new songs on his new four-disc set, These Days. The collection is an artistic masterpiece that displays Gill’s mastery of lyrics and musical styles, ranging from traditional country and bluegrass to jazz and rock. “I started looking at all these songs I had,” the Oklahoma singer explains, “and going, ‘Shoot, I want to record that song, and I want to record that song.’ I just kept checking with the other musicians to see if they were available. I had no deadlines, no rules or anything like that. So I just kept trying songs.”
Gill and Patty Loveless tear up “Out of My Mind,” and Allison Krauss and Dan Tyminski join in for the waltz “I Can’t Let Go.” Other guests joining Gill include Sheryl Crow, Bonnie Raitt, Rodney Crowell, Phil Everly, the Del McCoury Band, Emmylou Harris, John Anderson, Lee Ann Womack, daughter Jenny Gill and wife Amy Grant. Among the top tracks are “Faint of Heart” and “Cowboy Up.” There is something for everyone – times four – on These Days. A+
Enjoy the Ride – Sugarland
Working on a sophomore album is difficult enough, especially when your debut (Twice the Speed of Life) has gone gangbusters, selling more than 3 million CDs. But add in the departure of a founding group member and a change in producer, and you’ve got a real humdinger. That’s what Jennifer Nettles and Kristian Bush of Sugarland have experienced in the last year.
The kick-off single and chart-topping “Want To” sets the mood for this new disc. The reflective rocker “County Line” and the hopelessly optimistic “One Blue Sky” both showcase the combination of Jennifer’s powerhouse country-soul voice with Kristian’s passionate harmonies and deep-rooted musicality. The Georgia natives also do a sweet job on “Sugarland” and “Everyday America.” No doubt, truckers will enjoy this ride. B+
Kickin’ Out the Footlights