Think the clear voice of Dolly Parton, shifted down a step or so, and the big-eye flowing-hair mystique of Stevie Nicks, also ratcheted down a couple notches, and you have the aura of Houston singer-songwriter M'Carver. On her latest, the former Rounder artist releases three covers and seven originals that oscillate nicely between a pristine bluegrass and an edgy Texas sound.
Backed up by first-rate Nashville-based musicians including Viktor Krauss, Aubrey Haynie and Scott Neubert, the album's producer, M'Carver renders polished covers of "Return to Me" and Townes Van Zandt's "Niles River Blues." Her originals range from tender to tough: slower numbers like "Santa Fe" and "Sweetest Surrender" contain some tired clichTs and have inoffensive, radio-ready melodies.
In her faster, Texas-tinged numbers, however, M'Carver exercises her country-musician's right to employ extended puns. "There are certain things in life," she sings, "death and TexasŤand another man's wife." In a song about a best friend with designs on her man, titled "You Ain't No Palomino," M'Carver sings "You ain't no pal-o-mine-o" to comment on the dissolving friendship. Not bad, if you like that sort of thing. (111 East 14th St., #300, New York, NY 10003, Prime CD)