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Patty Loveless

Strong Heart – 2000 (Epic)

Reviewed by Eli Messinger

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CDs by Patty Loveless

After a three-year hiatus, Patty Loveless returns with another album of brilliant singing, well-picked (and written) songs and husband/producer/co-songwriter Emory Gordy Jr.'s flawless tightrope walk between radio-friendly production and honest-to-God country music. Their work is almost dull in its consistency.

Loveless ranges effortlessly from upbeat blues to the Trio-like harmonies of "My Heart Will Never Break This Way Again" (featuring Trisha Yearwood and Claire Lynch), and Gordy's production provides lush surroundings that retain their country roots. Even pop songs like "That's the Kind of Mood I'm In" show off a high-ground between hardcore honky-tonk and fluffy crossover radio fodder. >Matraca Berg (who penned 1996's "You Can Feel Bad") provides the teasing opener "You're So Cool," with Berg on background vocals and Steve Earle's Dylan-esque harmonica intro. Jimmy Hall picks up the harmonica to share lead with Steuart Smith's swamp guitar on "You Don't Get No More," and "The Key of Love" provides another dollop of electric country blues.

Nothing here matches the emotional resonance of 1997's "Long Stretch of Lonesome" (a Travis Tritt duet couldn't possibly reach the sublime height of her turn with George Jones, for instance), but the musical influences brought to bear on Loveless' and Gordy's country souls provide an interestingly broader launching pad for their songcraft.