For Sally Timms, being the estrogen influence in The Mekons is like being the babe target for the circus knifethrower. It's ultimately safe, but the possibility for great danger is as close as the other side of the stage. To balance the manic energy of The Mekons' frenetic sideshow, Timms takes the occasional break to concoct a little traditional country treat like her second solo album.
Timms assembled a flawless set of songs, both traditional and original, and a stacked deck of talent to produce it. "Sweetheart Waltz," a Timms/Jon Langford co-write, sounds like Brian Eno's take on a country two-step, while Timms' cover of Johnny Cash's "Cry Cry Cry" is gently heartbreaking. The Handsome Family is well represented, with Timms' cover of Rennie and Brett Sparks' "The Sad Milkman" and "Snowbird," perfect fodder for her country warble.
Timms' secret weapons are the twin contributions of Grievous Angel Jon Rauhouse on nearly everything from pedal steel to banjo and former Bottle Rockets member Tom Ray on upright bass. Appearances by Robbie Fulks, Andrew Bird and Langford are the icing on a damn near perfect musical cake. If Chrissie Hynde ever let her country influences rise all the way to the top, she might produce something possessing the power and grace of Timms' Laments.