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Gail Davies | Live and Unplugged
Gail Davies has evidently been around. The first female Country singer to produce her own records, the press release declares, though their 'pop-country' fusion is something I can live to a ripe old age without regret of hearing. This live album is a different matter however, recorded over two nights at Nashville's Station Inn, it features Davies along with 'friends' in a purely acoustic setting much more amenable to your average CwaS reader than the synthesizer and backbeat frenzy of her normal albums. It's a fresh, no nonsense, mellow kind of bluegrass-lite with none of those high notes that'll make your dog try and butt its head against a wall and, for at least half of its duration, pleasantly refreshing. Anyone who can cover Dylan's It Ain't Me Babe and not reduce you to tears of boredom is worth a listen. Davies has a clear, precise Patsy Cline type of voice and the arrangements display none of the affectations of post-sixties Nashville. On Trouble With Love she sounds like a folksier Lucinda Williams caught up in a maelstrom of regret. Two other Dylan covers (I'll Be Your Baby Tonight and Tomorrow Is A Long Time) chug away nicely on a bed of mandolins, banjo and fiddle while the self penned Wedding Invitation is a truly heartbreaking three minutes of dissolution and abandonment. The Louvin Brothers' Are You Teasing Me is chillingly rendered, sparse and economical with just the right shade of phrasing. Unfortunately, the album begins to sag halfway through, with only the self penned we were so poor we had to make sandwiches out of wood splinters, porcine toenails and rust shavings saga of Grandma's Song rising above the mulch. In the end there's just too many songs (19) and the album is let down by an extremely conservative choice of covers that belies whatever gains are consolidated in the first half. To hear another proficient bluegrass reading of Lovesick Blues is just plain redundant; imagine hearing Uncle Tupelo or Springsteen done in this format and you'd have a far more interesting album.