Kelly Willis Reviewed
Kelly WillisEasy (Rykodisc)
By now, we know what to expect from Kelly Willis. She's a dulcet-voiced singer, an engaging songwriter, and an appealing interpreter of an imposing array of songs written by other left-field tunesmiths. With Easy, her fifth album, Willis once again delivers the goods. While at first blush she may be a little more reserved than in the past (her rockabilly influences have been shelved), the belle of Austin country ball offers some of the most emotionally touching tunes she's ever recorded. She ranges into bluegrass territory for an affecting take on Paul Kelly's "Can't Take It With You," delivers a heartfelt reading of husband Bruce Robison's "What Did You Think," and offers a delightfully sassy version of Kirsty MacColl's "Don't Come the Cowboy With Me Sonny Jim!" With a truly awe-inspiring supporting cast that includes Robison, Vince Gill, Alison Krauss, and Dan Tyminski of Union Station on vocals, Chris Thile of Nickel Creek on mandolin, guitarists Chuck Prophet and Mark Spencer, keyboardist Ian McLagan, and fiddler Amy Farris, Willis has rendered a stylistic tour de force. Her songwriting this time out is especially sharp, with the easygoing shuffle "Getting to Me" and the stark yearning of "Not What I Had In Mind" standing out. Some will find Easy a trifle easygoing, preferring their country and folk with more of an edge. However, after repeated listening, Easy's quiet nature builds into a powerfully reflective experience that's touching in ways that few albums these days are.