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Waxed - Record Review from Issue #35 Sept-Oct 2001

Tracy Nelson

Ebony & Irony (Relentless Nashville)

On her 20th album since 1965, Tracy Nelson returns to the formula that made her 1993 release In The Here And Now an artistic success. She mixes up blues, rhythm & blues and gospel-harmony ballads, most of them addressing past, present and future heartaches by domineering, noncommittal men. The diva-without-attitude addresses each song with little reserve; if there’s a criticism to be made, it’s that the album plateaus early.

But a lot of singers would like to reach that high point at all. Nelson’s voice has always relied more on power than subtlety to evoke the pain or joy of the lyrics, and she shows that power hasn’t diminished. “Strongest Weakness”, a Gary Nicholson/Bekka Bramlett R&B workout with a Memphis horn call-and-response, and Terry Hanck’s “Quicksand”, with Hanck’s sax adding to the polish, are the highlights.

David Egan offers “If You Knew How Much”, a gospel-structured love song, and “Even Now”, a slow-building mood swing. Mose Allison’s “How Much Truth”, with its brushed drums and languid pace, sounds oddly lounge-like and stands apart from the rest of the record. The punchiest track is “Got a New Truck”, a duet with Marcia Ball, who brings her trademark energy and left-hand piano rhythms to the rave-up.

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Originally Featured in Issue #35 Sept-Oct 2001

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