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Patty Loveless

Mountain Soul II – 2009 (Saguaro)

Reviewed by Jessica Phillips

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CDs by Patty Loveless

Patty Loveless' first venture into bluegrass, "Mountain Soul," along with a performance slot on the popular Down From the Mountain tour in 2001, helped Loveless to find a spotlight of her own in bluegrass. Eight years later, Loveless lends her still supple voice to a blend of bluegrass songs, traditional gospel tunes and even several self-penned songs, with solid, if not superb, results.

Loveless' voice occasionally shows signs of age here, but that very element brings a beautiful dose of authenticity to these songs of loss, learning and faith. Her voice mixes sprightly hopefulness with a somberness that is rare.

Loveless brings back musicians from her original "Mountain Soul" project, including singers Rebecca Lynn Howard, Jon Randall and fiddle player Stuart Duncan and adds Vince Gill and Emmylou Harris.

The first single, Busted, about a family that has to leave town now that work in the coal mine no longer provides a steady income, sounds different than the popular version of the Harlan Howard tune. Loveless' personal background with the culture and history of the coal mines seems to seep through her vocals, giving them a weary but strong air.

The album offers a rich array of songwriters as well. Emmylou Harris adds lithe harmonies to her self-penned, Diamond In My Crown. There is a stunning take on Tony Arata's Handful of Dust, (with it's lyric, "A handful of dust/sums up the richest and poorest of us"). Karen Staley's solitary Half Over You, showcases Loveless' mournful, aching voice at its best. A fine cover of the Southern Gospel classic Working On A Building offers one of the most uplifting moments.

As with the original "Mountain Soul," Loveless contributes a few songs of her own, solidifying her presence as not only an ace bluegrass vocalist and interpreter, but as a songwriter as well. She offers an interesting a cappella song, (We Are All) Children of Abraham, along with the spry Big Chance, both co-written by her husband Emory Gordy.

Loveless' voice is in covering all the different usual topics of bluegrass (the gospel song, the down-on-your-luck song, etc.), this album would benefit from more of the personal tunes like Busted and Handful of Dust, which really give this album its soul.