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Valerie Smith and Liberty Pike

That's What Love Can Do – 2005 (Bell Buckle)

Reviewed by John Lupton

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CDs by Valerie Smith and Liberty Pike

Over the course of her first 3 releases since appearing seemingly out of nowhere in 1997, Missouri native Valerie Smith has drawn a lot of fans, not only in the bluegrass world, but in the larger "Americana" realm as well. The most obvious reason, of course, is that she's simply possessed of one of the most dynamic and engaging voices in the business, able to move effortlessly from slow, low-key ballads to belt-'em-out breakdowns with nary a grind of a gear to be heard.

More than that, on each previous album, she's shown flashes of inspiration with regard to song selection (a few of them originals written with husband Kraig Smith) and arrangements. As strong a lead vocal presence as she is, the harmonies have been outstanding as well. And, it certainly never hurts to have top rate sidemen - and women - like the multi-talented Becky Buller around to rely on.

It's always impressive to see an artist debut with a lot of promise and take a step forward each time out, and with "That's What Love Can Do," Valerie Smith seems to have put everything together in what is her strongest effort yet, 13 tracks, and not a weak link among them. (Box 298, Bell Buckle, TN 37020, 931-389-9694)