“There’s a place down by the mall/but it ain’t what you’d call a honky tonk,” Lee Ann Womack sings on the title cut of her new album “The Lonely, The Lonesome & The Gone.” “They’ve got a new jukebox/Filled up with country rock/’Cause that’s what folks want.”
The song argues that country rock, new country, bro country or whatever you want to call it can’t convey the heartache of an old Hank Williams song.
But Womack sure can and does on this album that takes Womack back to her roots, right down to recording it in the Houston studio where George Jones and Willie Nelson did some of their classic songs.
A reworked version of one of Jones’s songs ‘"Take the Devil Out of Me” wraps up the album filled with real country delivered by a true country singer, who spins in gospel on the opener “All the Trouble” and gets sadly seductive on “He Called Me Baby” — a pair of R&B-tinged numbers.
On the delicate “Mama Lost Her Smile,” Womack wrings the ache out of a tale of a family fallen apart, goes classic weeper on the quiet “Someone Else’s Heartache,” finds the joy in barely getting by in the gently swinging “Bottom of the Barrel” and delivers a haunting version of the classic “Long Black Veil.”
None of the 14 songs on “The Lonely, The Lonesome & The Gone” are likely to turn up on country radio or turn into hits. But that’s not where real country is generally found these days. And that’s just what Womack brings from start to finish on an album that’s one of the best — and only — true country records of 2017. Grade: A
JD McPherson, 'Undivided Heart & Soul'
JD McPherson and his band today’s finest purveyors of deeply rooted rock ‘n’ roll, drawing on '50s R&B and rockabilly to craft his first two albums.
With “Undivided Heart & Soul,” album No. 3, McPherson opens up his game and sound.
Collaborating with the likes of Parker Millsap, Butch Walker, Aaron Lee Tasjan on the songs — more personal than previous albums — and woodshedding with Queens of the Stone Age’s Josh Homme on the sonic approach, McPherson’s rocking a little harder on the album and things are simply a little noisier on songs like “Lucky Penny.”
But the music, recorded in Nashville’s legendary RCA Studio B, is still exquisitely played by the band, especially on the sinuous drifting ballad “Hunting for Sugar” and the near-instrumental “Bloodhound Rock,” which swings and jumps on Jimmy Sutton’s bass and Doug Corcoran’s guitar riffs.
There are some true gems on the album — the chugging opener, “Desperate Love”; the title cut that brings to mind Rockpile, Nick Lowe and Dave Edmunds’s great '80s band; the rhythmic shaker “Style (Is A Losing Game)”; and the closer “Let’s Get Out of Here While We’re Young,” which comes sneaking toward '60s rock ‘n’ roll.
That’s another move forward for McPherson, who confirms his roots rock ‘n’ roll prowess on “Undivided Heart & Soul.”
If you’re a buyer, not a streamer, you’ll want to get the vinyl version — the cover features some great artwork by McPherson, who was an art teacher before striking out in music. It should be seen big. Grade: A