Looks Good, Sounds Great

Something Worth Leaving Behind
Lee Ann Womack

Lee Ann Womack has come a long way from her country-girl-next-door image of 1997. Kevin Mancuso of New York is handling her hair. No kidding – a man whose fingers recently have run through the locks of Ashley Judd, Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera. Her makeup is by Mally Roncal, a lady from New York who handles Celine Dion, Angelina Jolie and others. If you think you’ll be contacting one of these fine pros, call your bank first. An hour with any of them could run $500 to $1,000, and the day rates are between $5,000 and $10,000.

Among the dozen gems featured on this album is a pair of powerfully rendered masterpieces, “I Need You” and “Orphan Train.”

Nashville songstress Matraca Berg, whose has written No. 1 hits for Patty Loveless and Trisha Yearwood, penned “You Should’ve Lied,” which is an angry number.

Although you may enjoy her new look, the liner notes fail to give the consumer various glamour shots of the budding superstar. Oh well, maybe you’ll see her firsthand in a salon near you.
Grade: B

Man With A Memory
Joe Nichols

Universal South is a brand new record label aiming to break the cookie-cutter patterns of today’s constricted radio environment. Heading the team are two of Nashville’s best execs, Tim DuBois and Tony Brown. The pair has landed Arkansas native Nichols as their flagship artist, and he’s a good one.

It’s all in the casual but careful phrasing, the fondness for a simple song and an emphasis on the voice rather than layers of orchestral gunk. Joe’s first single, and the album’s opening cut, is a must-listen sentimental ballad, “The Impossible.” Another track worth spinning is “That Would Be Her,” a ballad that tugs at the emotional strings. Tom T. Hall’s “Life Don’t Have To Mean Nothin’ At All” is a blend of well-crafted, Hall-esque lyrics with the newcomer’s gifted voice. Nichols has come a long way from the Wal-Mart parking lot!
Grade: B+

Miss Fortune
Allison Moorer

DuBois and Brown’s leading female vocalist at Universal South is veteran singer Allison Moorer, who’s worked for Brown at MCA the past few years putting out two stellar CDs. This talented Alabamian does a wonderful job of combining soulful on-the-edge country with supermodel looks.

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This record rocks when it needs to, then eases the listener into a hip, swing mode. A close perusal of the liner notes and you to will discover that, “absolutely no vocal tuning or pitch correction used in the making of this record.” That means what she sang is what we hear, and that is a rarity these days. Moorer penned most of the 13 songs, including “Tumbling Down” and “Cold In California.” “Mark My Word” is one track that ought to get a spin at country radio. Will the third time be the charm for A.M.?
Grade: B-

Trail Of Memories: The Anthology
Randy Travis

Most of you either love him or you hate him. Randy Travis and his trademark vocals led to the rebirth of country music in the late 1980s, and he alone is most responsible for the youth rush that happened pre-Garth. Besides a pair of greatest hits records in the early 1990s, no admirable compilation of the former restaurant worker has been issued – until now.

Travis’ classic country fervor has churned out a tried-and-true blend of confident (but not cocky) honky-tonkers, closing-time weepers, and his specialty, sincere, heart-melting pledges of eternal devotion (best exemplified by his astonishing “Forever and Ever, Amen”). The two-disc Trail Of Memories boasts 44 tracks culled from his 13 albums (for WB and DreamWorks) from 1985 to 1999, plus a 40-page booklet with excellent liner notes. There are a whopping 22 Top 5 hits, including 15 chart-toppers, but the consistently high quality throughout and varied pacing quickly discourages track-hopping. A treasure you’ll have forever and ever, Amen.
Grade: A+

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