Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide by Review Date: 2011-03-18

2011-03-18

Loretta Lynn and Friends: Coal Miner's Daughter: A Tribute to Loretta Lynn (Columbia Nashville, 2010) Two historic performances, Carrie Underwood's cornpone-deluxe "You're Lookin' at Country" and a Lambert-Crow-Lynn trifecta taking the title song home, counterbalance cocky ones by the matched pair Jack White and Kid Rock. Both are guys, as you may have noticed, so let me note that Alan Jackson and Steve Earle distinguish themselves as the duet partners they're proud to be. This isn't just a women's record, it's a sisterhood record--not even the ever more stylized Lucinda Williams tries to upstage the artist who did more than Kitty Wells herself to make all these gals' artistic lives possible. Lynn still owns the songs, but she's pleased as pie to lend them out, and they come back to her lovingly countrified even when the borrower is Hayley Williams, of Paramore and Franklin, Tennessee, who acts naturally over an acoustic guitar and should give Jack White lessons. A-

Lucinda Williams: Blessed (Lost Highway, 2011) Maddening. Songwise it's a comeback--seven-eight repeaters compared to Little Honey's five, which I just went back and counted because they were so indelible I thought there must be more. Unfortunately, there aren't. Then again, indelible these aren't--too mushy around the edges. Williams has always worked her drawl, but here the extended vowels and slurred consonants tempt one to suspect she's afraid "We were blessed by the watchmaker/Who gave up his time" won't stand up straight next to "We were blessed by the wounded man/Who felt no pain." Unfortunately, it won't, and similar shortfalls cripple "Soldier Song" just before. What makes me half believe I'll want to hear this album again is the drawn-out religious rumination "Awakening," where vagueness signifies, and every solo Val McCallum gets. Atmospheric. Play loud anyway, so it won't be. B+

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