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Bill Wence

California Callin' – 2001 (615)

Reviewed by Tom Netherland

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CDs by Bill Wence

Superstars with household names are not alone among fine country musicians. Indeed, much of today's better country comes from those whose name won't even strike chords in Music City. One such talent is Bill Wence. His self-released album probably won't have radio station conglomerates calling him, but he's pulled off what a number of today's platinum-selling artists don't do: He's released an understated album brimming with sweet quality.

And heart. Each of the 11 tunes were either written or co-written by Wence, including the superb title track. Now, he doesn't exactly conjure images of a hardcore country singer, such as with a bluesy "I'm Still Lovin' You. Furthermore, Wence warbles with heart, as on "I'll Send My Love," yet his smoky voice won't make anyone forget Marty Robbins, either.

But therein lies the charm. He sings 'em like he means it. Take his duet with Jonell Mosser, "Break Away." Drums don't mangle a marvelous vocal interaction that highlights each singer's bent for blues vocals, making the song a standout on a standout album. No CMAs, no platinum awards or accolades aplenty await Bill Wence. But that's OK. Musicians - real musicians - don't make music for awards. Wence has himself 11 certified winners to hang his hat onto. (615-776-2060)