Picks and Pans Review: Don't Cheat in Our Hometown
Harris, Jeannie and Royce Kendall and Skaggs are among the most elemental, plain-sung folks in country music, as these three clean, direct, bright-sounding albums prove. Harris rocks and rolls a little more than is typical for her. She reprises the 1955 hit Pledging My Love (a big seller for both Johnny Ace and Teresa Brewer) as well as the 1978 tune Baby, Better Start Turnin' 'Em Down by her old sideman, Rodney Crowell. There are some other pleasant surprises: a down-tempo version of Donna Summer's On the Radio and a ballad rendition of Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend. The Kendalls, father Royce and daughter Jeannie, harmonize quite happily on their own, but when Emmylou sits in, as she does on three tracks of Movin' Train, the sound gets positively heavenly. The title track, by Tom Rocco and Charlie Black, is high-spirited fun, too. Skaggs' unfailingly entertaining album is his third on a major label (he's another Harris band alumnus). It's also a family project, since wife Sharon White turns up with her sister Cheryl and papa, Buck, harmonizing with Skaggs on a simple version of the spiritual Children Go, backed only by Ricky's acoustic guitar. On two other tracks Skaggs profits from the best backup singer in the business, otherwise known as Dolly Parton. His band includes Albert Lee, who adds stop-the-world solos on electric guitar and piano on I'm Head Over Heels in Love. Five tunes on the album were made famous by the Stanley Brothers bluegrass group. Skaggs, 29, who joined a later version of that band as a teenager, has managed to keep the best, unaffected sounds of bluegrass while turning his talents to some of the most delightful middle-of-the-country-road music around.