Six years after her last studio release; almost three since an EP that was supposed to be a taste of things to come on a different label; and over a year since its actual recording was completed, Kelly Willis has a new album out. This release continues in the direction presaged on the *Fading Fast* EP, and the results - more varied than the country-based sound of her first three albums - presumably reflect Willis' expressed determination to exercise more control over her sound and recording experience.
Not that there isn't plenty of country here - to confirm that, one need only listen to the gorgeous waltz "Talk Like That," or "Wrapped," or Paul Kelly's "Cradle of Love" (a song that seems like it was written for Kelly Willis's voice to sing). Beyond those confines, however, are songs like Willis's reading of folk gloomster Nick Drake's "Time Has Told Me" and the anthemic pop of the late-Replacements' "They're Blind." There's also a whiff of the Jayhawks around tunes like "Take Me Down" and the hope-drained weariness of "What I Deserve"- not surprisingly, since they were co-written by Willis and Gary Louris.
What has remained constant and holds things together here is Willis' gorgeous, aching, trembling, slurry, insinuating voice, abetted by a stellar cast of musicians that includes Mark Spencer, Jon Dee Graham, Chuck Prophet and Lloyd Maines. Here's hoping this fine release brings Willis the success she deserves.