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Patty Loveless

On Your Way Home – 2003 (Epic)

Reviewed by Eli Messinger

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CDs by Patty Loveless

Having climbed back into the hills for 2001's brilliant "Mountain Soul," Patty Loveless now brings her hillbilly roots back down the mountain to Nashville. Together with husband/producer Emory Gordy Jr., she deftly augments the fiddle, banjo and mandolin that dominated "Mountain Soul" with electric guitars, bass and drums, providing a punchier backing for the classic country themes and tightly harmonized vocals.

As always, Loveless and Gordy select their material from the cream of today's country writers, including Rodney Crowell, Matraca Berg, Marty Stuart, Jim Lauderdale and Buddy Miller. Stuart's "Draggin' My Heart Around" kicks off the album with a two-steppin' tale of love gone wrong, a topic that's visited several times. A trio of waltzes, "Born Again Fool," "Higher Than the Wall" and "Last in a Long Lonesome Line," show off how Loveless can stretch a note to communicate the depth of loneliness or the first blush of love, the despair of resignation or the joy of re-discovery.

The album closes, as so many Loveless releases seem to, on a funereal note. This touching memory of a grandfather would sound treacly in the hands of a lesser singer, but Loveless renders it into a truly emotional moment. She sings with seemingly effortless confidence, reveling in the artistic freedom - the trust - given her by Epic. She exhibits the confluence of talent, maturity, dedication, and intelligence that marks the peaks of Wells, Parton, Lynn and country's other great singers.