Ladies Edition - Dolly Parton- Kelley Hunt- Patti Parks- Hannah Aldridge

Dolly Parton
Blue Smoke

Sony Masterworks

You have to give it up for Parton; she recently told the press to get off Miley Cyrus' back and let her do things her own way, because that's how she herself did it and she turned out just fine, to the tune of 100 million albums sold to date. That digit is bound to expand with this set of all new music, filled with great sing-alongs like the 'choo-choo' and 'woo woo'-filled bluegrass breakdown of the title track, a solid cover of Bob Dylan's "Don't Think Twice," the traditional murder ballad "Banks of the Ohio" and a tender duet with Willie Nelson, "From Here to the Moon and Back." Another fine effort from the true queen of country music.

Kelley Hunt
The Beautiful Bones


Hunt is a Kansas City-based soul singer with a real feel for the sound of acts like Mavis Staples ("Golden Hour") and Aretha Franklin ("This Time"). And she doesn't accomplish that by running through a set of covers; everything here is written or co-written by Hunt and there are lots of standout tracks like the gospel-tinged R&B of "Release and Be Free" and the bayou boogie of "When Love is at the Wheel," one of many songs here dressed up with a horn section and Hammond B3.

Patti Parks
Cheat'n Man

(Self released)

Parks lists Liza Minnelli as someone she listened to a lot in her youth and you can hear hints of Minnelli here but Patti is more of a gutsy blues singer, romping behind a raunchy sax riff on the jump blues of "Baby Don't You Know," issuing a sassy warning to anyone eyeing her man in "Back Off" only to turn around and realize in the title cut that she should have let him go anyway. Primarily a regional artist at this point (she's based in Buffalo) Parks is poised with this record to reach a much wider audience.

Hannah Aldridge
Razor Wire

Trodden Black

Here's another fine talent from the longtime hotbed of Muscle Shoals, Alabama, the third point on the musical map that connects to Nashville and Memphis. Aldridge, who wrote most of the material here, has a voice that is both sweet and smoky and a way with words that is literate yet everywoman-ish, making lines like "Take the rose from my curls/And unwind my strand of pearls" from the stark "Strand of Pearls" seem like they come effortlessly. A major talent ready for the bigs, Aldridge's dark Americana sound will appeal to fans of acts like Lucinda Williams, Shelby Lynne and Julie Miller.

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