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Kelly Willis

EASY (Rykodisc) • Kelly Willis

Yeah, buddy, turn that pretty woman up.

Easy is the seventh record in a dozen years by Kelly Willis, and it doesn't take a minute to hear why her voice is among the most beloved in country. It's so sincere and so alluring. It's the antidote to Shania Twain's voice. This is Austin country, it's as different from Nashville as San Francisco is from Los Angeles, or as Woodstock is from New York. (Okay, maybe not as different as that last one.)

The title is apt, the disc is not ballad shy. But when the songs and the singing are this good, that suits the hell outta me. Easy turns out to be short for "Easy as falling apart," and most of the songs concern love or the lack of it. It opens up with the uptempo single, "If I Left You" watch for the video on CMT. I'm on my fourth spin of this record, and it's going straight into the CD changer in the car when I leave.

That's the everywhere man, Chuck Prophet, on a lot of the good Telecaster and acoustic lead tracks. He also cut most of the acoustic rhythm and one on Wurlitzer piano. When he's not touring with Lucinda, he's playing guitar or cowriting with Kim Richey at Bill Bottrell's studio on the Mendocino coast, or in Austin cutting with Kelly Willis. His life's a real bitch.

The other great guitarist on the record is Mark Spencer--acoustic, electric, baritone, and Weissenborn. The legendary Lloyd Maines also contributes a few great tracks, mostly steel. (Lloyd is the father of Natalie, lead singer of the Dixie Chicks. His dad Wayne was in a two generation band called The Maines Brothers, from Lubbock. Wayne was on the school bus with Buddy Holly, who was studying steel and noticed that Wayne's guitar was getting the girls' attention. Wayne showed Buddy Holly his first guitar chords.)

It breaks my heart. Kelly Willis is the voice of the country singer in my dreams. This is what should be playing on Country radio. This is our heritage and our American birthright. Not Shania Twain and not Faith Hill, either. That's A/C, Adult Contemporary, that is not Country. Want Country back? Buy real country, buy this. Tell your friends about Kelly Willis. Email them the URL of our Listen page, and of her website. And buy it here, it's Easy. • Frank Goodman

(Thanks to my man Monte Warden, a great troubadour, for the TX music tutorial on the phone.)

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