Favorite CDs: “Kelly Willis” (MCA)

Listen to this sunny vocalist work her honey and molasses vocal magic on the Kendalls’ 1970 country smasheroo “Heaven’s Just a Sin Away”, her sinfully catchy take on Marshall Crenshaw’s “Whatever the Wind Blows” or her own artfully crafted originals (“Get Real”, “Shadows of Love”) and you’ll wonder, like me, why this gifted  young performer has never become a huge star.

All of those tracks are featured on her 1993 self-titled CD although, for me, the real heartstopper of the set is “That’ll Be Me”, a duet with Kevin Welch (another unjustly neglected folk/country performer). The duo’s heartfelt harmonies, Dan Dugmore’s exquisite pedal steel break and Welch’s hauntingly poetic lyrics bring back memories of those classic Emmylou Harris/Gram Parsons duets.

The CD also benefits from sympathetic production by studio whiz Don Was and Tony Brown and impeccable playing from Nashville vet Kieran Kane on mandolin, Tom Petty bandmember Benmont Tench on keyboards and all purpose Brit guitarist Billy Bremner. (He’s played with everyone from Chrissie Hynde to Carlene Carter.)

So why wasn’t this a crossover pop/country smash?

It’s a mystery even the music savvy private eye in those Kinky Friedman mystery novels wouldn’t be able to figure out.


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Author: rixbitz

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