Picks and Pans Review: Plain Brown Wrapper

updated 09/22/1986 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/22/1986 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Gary Morris

Listening to this album makes it seem easy to cut a marvelously entertaining pop record. You take some great old songs and some terrific new ones. You sing them like you meant it. You don't do any unnecessary embellishments. Zingo, an LP for the ages. Obviously it can't be all that easy. For one thing, not everyone has Morris' voice, which always sounds easy and warm no matter how far he roams around the melodic or emotional range. Morris also produced the album himself and could hardly have done a better job of choosing his material. The classic country tunes include the Jimmy Rodgers hit Honeycomb, much less silly sounding in Morris' slowed-down version, Merle Haggard's Today I Started Loving You Again and Hank Williams Sr.'s I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry. Morris even seems perfectly comfortable doing Ain't Got Nothin' But the Blues, thus making honorary good ole boys out of its composers, Don George and Duke Ellington. The new tunes, including Dave Loggins' Better Than the New and Morris' own Leave Me Lonely, are similar in tone and approached in the same relaxed yet never lazy manner. A splendid studio band—string maestros Mark O'Connor, Jerry Douglas and Mark Casstevens are part of it—backed up Morris' regular group beautifully. While this is not what is usually thought of as a concept album, it succeeds in sustaining a remarkable consistency: This is an intelligent man and an intelligent singer, musing in some dark corner about the joys and disappointments of romance. (Warner Bros.)

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