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Picks and Pans Review: The Speed of Grace

updated 04/04/1994 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 04/04/1994 01:00AM

Matraca Berg

One of these days, some producer will show the prescience to commission a big budget, country-music-themed Broadway and/or Hollywood musical. Berg is not just the woman who should write the music; she should sing it too.

Her pungent, literate songs have been converted into hits by, among others, Reba McEntire ("The Last to Know"), Suzy Bogguss ("Hey Cinderella"), Trisha Yearwood ("Wrong Side of Memphis" and "Lying to the Moon") and Patty Loveless ("That Kind of Girl"). In most cases, Berg sings them at least as well as the bigger names do—in a bluesy, resonant style reminiscent of Bonnie Raitt's.

This is Berg's second vocal album, and, like her first, it includes the wistful "Lying to the Moon." But she also sings such striking tunes as the hunk-worshipping "Tall Drink of Water," the honky-tonkish "Jolene" and the seductive "Come to Momma." Although the mellow-voiced Kieran Kane contributes a backup vocal to "River of No Return," there is, unhappily, no real duet—Berg would be an ideal partner for someone like Alan Jackson or Cajun singer-accordionist Jo-El Sonnier.

While Berg occasionally collaborates on her material, she doesn't really need anyone else to write her songs, and she doesn't need anyone else to sing them either. (RCA)

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