Picks and Pans Review: Heart Land

updated 03/09/1987 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 03/09/1987 AT 01:00 AM EST

The Judds

Anyone who has ever questioned Naomi and Wynonna's success need only listen to The Sweetest Gift on this album. A tune by J.B. Coats about a mother visiting her son in prison, it is one of those elemental country songs—grass-roots-values department—and the Judds sing it accompanied only by Don Potter's acoustic guitar and some characteristically lovely harmony backup by Emmylou Harris. The result is a soothing, almost ethereal hymn to maternal dedication, and no mom could ask for a better tribute. A couple of tracks on this album (the Judds' third) don't work quite so well, particularly their version of Don't Be Cruel. It shows why not a lot of people have covered Elvis songs. For one thing, Elvis' delivery was so distinctive it's hard to overcome the memory of it; for another, a lot of the songs he sang were not real gems (anyone want to try Hound Dog, for instance?). Even with Presley's old pals, the Jordanaires, backing them up, the Judds can't do much with Cruel. They also sound oddly restrained, ironically enough, on Turn It Loose, which seems as if it ought to be a burst-out country-rock tune but never quite makes it. There is, though, a likable version of Cow Cow Boogie, the old Big Band swinger enjoying something of a revival, and the K.T. Oslin/ Jerry Gillespie tune Old Pictures lets the ladies wax sentimental, which is one of their favorite ways to wax. This duo would sound good even if they had never met before the recording date, but the familial ties add an attractive element to their performances. All mothers and daughters should harmonize this well. (RCA)

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