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Kelly Willis | What I Deserve (Ryko)
Willis' fourth album boasts many a notable name among its cast (Chuck Prophet, Lloyd Maines), songwriting collaborations with Jayhawks' Gary Louris and John Leventhal, and covers of songs by Nick Drake, Paul Westerberg and others. With such stellar input, it's hard to fathom why the resultant album is swamped with anonymity. Willis' own contribution is not to blame, she possesses a warm voice that resonates with charm. No, what suffocates the songs is the bland performances and sterile production that cry out for some stinging Louris leads and cracked harmonies. The cover of Drake's Time Has Told Me trades tragedy for maudlin sentiment (do you really need the royalties Mr Boyd?), typifying the banality of the album. For the undemanding Shania Twain-adoring crowd, What I Deserve is a very safe country record. Post-Uncle Tupelo, this isn't enough.

Matt Dornan
CWAS #4 - Winter 1998/9 - The Lost Issue