Magazine article Newsweek International

An ABC of Country Song Covers : Three New CDs Get It Wrong, Wrong and Right

Magazine article Newsweek International

An ABC of Country Song Covers : Three New CDs Get It Wrong, Wrong and Right

Article excerpt

Country music's reverence for tradition has yielded some of the best cover records ever--Willie Nelson redoing Roy Acuff's "Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain"--and some of the looniest, like Webb Pierce's duet with Carol Channing on his own "Back Street Affair." But "LeAnn Rimes," the 17-year-old star's new CD of country classics, may be uniquely bizarre: not because it's unidiomatic, but because it's so emotionally empty. For a precocious Patsy Cline sound-alike to tackle four Cline signature songs seems so rash it might actually be brilliant. But although Rimes trots out the what-a-set-of-pipes mannerisms--the demi-yodel, the tigerish growl--there's no apparent consciousness behind the voice; on "Crazy," she might as well be singing a John Ashbery poem. It's weirdly fascinating, but you begin to feel like somebody slipped something into your Jim Beam and you need to get some air.

John Prine did have a brilliant idea: revisit great duet numbers with the likes of Lucinda Williams and Iris DeMent. He even gets George Jones's onetime sidekick Melba Montgomery to reprise two of her own songs, including the 1963 "Let's Invite Them Over"--the closest Nashville has come to the topic of spouse swapping. But neither Prine's wry, alt.-country sensibility nor his ragged-but-right voice does the idea justice. He was shooting for second-take spontaneity and bemused affection; what comes across is casual condescension. Prine's partners didn't work out their parts well--sometimes they just settle for ugly unison. …

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