Right or wrong, Emmylou has taken some flak in these pages and elsewhere for the unevenness of her previous albums, Luxury Liner and Quarter Moon in a Ten Cent Town. No one's questioned either her musical direction or Brian Ahern's consistently fine production, but her choice of material. I defy anyone to do that here.
Blue Kentucky Girl is her finest effort since her debut album over four years ago. The cover shows her gussied up like Kitty Wells circa 1956 (or more appropriately Loretta Lynn circa 1963), right down to the embroidered boots and Gibson J-200. It fits the music inside perfectly.
Few of the tunes here are unfamiliar. All have distinguished pedigrees, and the backup compliments well. Every note has a reason for being there, typical of the Hot Band's no-nonsense style. She tackles, and conquers, Willie's Sister's Coming Home/Down at the Corner Beer Joint, aided by Tanya Tucker, Dallas Frazier's Beneath Still Waters, Gram Parsons' Hickory Wind,(an emotional tribute to her late friend and benefactor), the rock oldie Save The Last Dance For Me, Jean Ritchie's folk classic Sorrow in the Wind, Leon Payne's They'll Never Take His (Her) Love From Me, and Loretta Lynn's 1964 hit Blue Kentucky Girl and Rough and Rocky. Rodney Crowell, a Hot Band alumnus, has given her Even Cowgirls Get The Blues, in some ways a perfect song to compliment the other material here, which she sings with Dolly and Linda Ronstadt (what ever happened to that LP they were supposed to cut??)
There's nothing left to say, except that Blue Kentucky Girl is beyond criticism. It may be Emmylou's definitive work, not to mention a tough act to follow.
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