Archive for March, 2016

in performance: joan baez

joan baez.

joan baez.

You have to wonder sometimes if the true strength of an iconic artist sits more in the history of what made them great in the first place or their willingness to see their visions and impulses through to newer adventures. In the case of last night’s performance by folk empress Joan Baez at the Opera House, the answer was a bit of both.

Given the singer has been a folk mainstay for over 55 years, the past certainly came into play. To that end, the 90 minute performance did not disappoint. She delved back to her self-titled 1960 debut album early into the program for a version of Silver Dagger that sounded suitably sagely but still lovingly devoted to the tune’s traditional folk roots. But just a few songs earlier, Baez summoned Steve Earle’s God is God, a restless contemplation of faith (“Never seen a line in the sand or a diamond in the dust”) the singer recorded as recently as 2008. Standing alone on the stage shortly before her onstage ensemble would swell to a trio (and, eventually, a quartet), Baez was suddenly the regal elder, a folk stylist still filled with a world weariness as beautiful and pensive as when Silver Dagger gleamed anew.

The Baez onstage last night turned 75 in January, so some of that weariness has been well earned. Remarkably fit and vigorous in appearance, Baez didn’t possess the tireless vibrato or the sheer vocal might she exhibited in decades past. But with very few exceptions, that didn’t especially matter. The show opening version of Lily of the West, first cut by Baez on her second album in 1961, looked to spell trouble by sending the singer into upper registers she clearly struggled with (the folk tune’s references to Louisville and Lexington likely explained its inclusion in the setlist). But Baez quickly adjusted, sending a quietly potent and eerily relevant take on Bob Dylan’s The Times They Are-A-Changin’ into a lower, more easily sustained range.

From there Baez sifted through the years with a group that included the acclaimed roots music multi-instrumentalist Dirk Powell. There were tunes by folk forefathers (Dylan, Woody Guthrie), established torchbearers (Earle, Paul Simon, Richard Thompson) and even some surprising neo-pop sources (Antony and the Johnsons’ tribal-esque global warming anthem Another World).

Guthrie’s Deportee (Plain Wreck at Los Gatos) openly embraced a view of immigrants that championed “a very different approach to the Donald (Trump)” for a folk feel that was gorgeously somber. But Baez connected so directly with the second of two Thompson tunes, She Never Could Resist a Winding Road, that she turned the tale of wanderlust into a first person narrative.

It was another Earle composition, Jerusalem, that seemed to best bridge the past and present. Penned in 2002, the song is a prayer for peace in a world rattled by intolerance (“Maybe I’m only dreaming and maybe I’m just a fool, but I don’t remember learning how to hate in Sunday school”). Performed only with Powell’s accompaniment on piano, the song didn’t possess the sheer vocal might Baez summoned with ease in decades past. In its place was a more internalized voice bearing the weight and, amazingly, hope, of age. It was a quieter show of strength amid the unchanging – and often unflattering – temperament of the times.

keith emerson, 1944-2016

keith emerson.

keith emerson.

We’ve lost another one. Keith Emerson, the instrumentalist who set the standard for keyboard instrumentation in rock music – and with it, a level of performance bravura that riled critics as it thrilled audiences – has died at age 71. The specific cause has not been announced.

Emerson’s uses of organ and, eventually synthesizers, were as renowned as they were revolutionary. His playing was introduced at the height of ‘60s psychedelia with the power trio (and, briefly, quartet) The Nice, a band that tossed Brubeck, Bernstein and Dylan into a prog rock pot where keyboards served as the dominant spice. But it was in the ‘70s with the advancements of Moog synthesizers that Emerson’s bold musicianship turned to stardom alongside bassist/vocalist Greg Lake and drummer Carl Palmer in the aptly named Emerson, Lake & Palmer.

“I suppose it was rather like the early airplane pilots,” Emerson recalled of ELP’s early days with synthesizers in an interview I conducted with him in 1996. “We were really dealing with equipment that wasn’t designed to fly. The early modular synthesizers, which I was using then, were very prone to changing keys and picking up radio signals. They would even catch transmitter calls from passing taxis when we would be playing. It was quite extraordinary.”

Audiences ate the music up, especially Emerson’s onstage antics, which included shoving knifes into the keys of a Hammond organ to sustain notes and feedback. The growing punk movement, though, used bands like ELP as targets of generational outrage, making most commercially successful prog bands dinosaur acts by the end of the decade. Still, Emerson found his way to Rupp Arena twice – one with ELP in January 1978 and again in August 1986 with the late drummer Cozy Powell replacing Palmer.

For all his wildness (Emerson’s autobiography was titled Pictures of an Exhibitionist), nothing compared to when he unplugged the synths and played freely on piano – whether it be the acoustic interlude of Take a Pebble from ELP’s self-titled debut album in 1971 to the barrelhouse rolls of Honky Tonk Train Blues from the trio’s last vital studio recording, Works, Volume 2 in 1977. And then there was his Piano Concerto, No. 1 which took up all of side one of Works, Volume 1 and served as a bright reaffirmation of Emerson’s classical roots.

“Even though we’re still very dependent on the synthesizers today, there remains a feeling of apprehension when one goes out onstage because they can always break down,” Emerson said during our 1996 talk. “I’m far happier playing a piano.”

joan baez at 75: enforcing the voice

joan baez.

joan baez.

When asked if there was an artistic attribute that has helped sustain her career as one of the most cherished folk artists of successive generations, Joan Baez offered a reply as exact as it is succinct.

“Talent.”

She means it, too. But the reply isn’t an arrogant one. In conservation, Baez is animated and in no way self-serving. She has simply viewed her talent, her voice and her artistic instinct as a collective gift, from the instant her career ignited at the Newport Folk Festival in 1959 right through to a star-studded January concert held at New York’s Beacon Theatre in honor of the singer/activist’s 75th birthday. As such, Baez doesn’t so much see herself as the creator of that talent, but rather its custodian.

“People ask how come I’ve lasted so long, and I say, ‘Talent.’ I mean, that is part of it. That is a magical part of it, but that was given to me. I can sit here and joke about it, because it doesn’t have much to do with me. My job is maintenance and delivery, and other things like meeting these younger people and getting to know them. I realize many of them say, ‘Oh, my dad and mom listened to you and it meant this and it meant that.’ So I listened to those things for many years. These people kind of came into my life, some of them by invitation, some simply because I heard them.”

Both categories apply to the Beacon Theatre concert, which was taped by PBS for broadcast this June as part its Great Performances series. The concert was full of artists that owed considerable cultural debt to the kind of socially conscious voice, but figurative and literal, Baez has given to folk music for over five decades. The guest list included Paul Simon, Mavis Staples, Jackson Browne, David Crosby, Judy Collins and Richard Thompson, along with such globally inclined new generation stylists as Irish songster Damien Rice and Chilean singer Nano Stern.

“It was a splendid evening,” Baez remarked. “It was a tremendous amount of work and stress. But I’ve had enough work with hypnosis and Native American practices that when, finally, everything was together, I walked out onstage and just had a wonderful time.”

Baez’s career took flight during a decade when there was not just a laundry list of social issues to address – the Vietnam War, the military draft that accompanied it, the Civil Rights Movement and numerous environmental causes – but a generation of folk artists whose music confronted the times. Different social obstacles exist today, she said, but not necessarily the music on a scale large and inventive enough to properly address them.

“Music should be something to reflect the situations we are in,” Baez said. “But there is so much talent that came out of the ‘60s and ‘70s that people are trying to recapture. Some of the songwriting is good, but there haven’t been any anthems. There hasn’t been a Blowin’ in the Wind or an Imagine. That’s probably the hardest thing in the world, to write an anthem. I think there are a lot of kids who are concerned about the state of the world and who do, in fact, write some pretty good songs. They just don’t have much of a platform right now. There are no icons at the moment.”

The responsibilities of a folk matriarch don’t stop with keeping a torch for social awareness that was ignited decades ago. Her duties today also involve upkeep, a balance of health and attitude necessary to fuel a prolonged, sustained performance life.

“The most difficult thing is the voice because it begins to betray you, actually, in your mid 30s. A few years back, I went to see an ear, nose and throat guy because I was having so much trouble my voice. The fact was that, at that point, I had a 71 year old voice and that was simply not what I wanted to hear. I mean, I had perfected the vibrato by the time I was 14, and now it was not there anymore the way I wanted it to hear it. So it’s all smoke and mirrors now. I have to figure out ways to get notes that are comfortable so they are listenable and make as few of them as possible, which means I lower the range. But there is something about the lower range that I really do love. I think it reflects a lifetime.”

Then are also less crucial but still taxing forms of upkeep that have to take a back seat in a career that continues to move briskly. Baez recalled one such fleeting bit of maintenance that had to be jettisoned during the Beacon concert.

“There was no time for me to fix my hair,” she said with a rich laugh. “I haven’t seen the footage. I’m just hoping that it doesn’t look as weird as I think it did.”

Joan Baez performs at 7:30 p.m. March 12 at the Lexington Opera House, 401 W. Short. Tickets are $85.50. Call 800-745-3000, 859-233-3535 or go to ticketmaster.com.

nana vasconcelos, 1944-2016

nana vasconcelos.

nana vasconcelos.

To the far too lengthy list of musical giants that have already taken leave of us in this very young year we now add a far less recognizable name. But to those who knew his music, Nana Vasconcelos was an incantatory colossus.

The Brazilian percussionist, who died Wednesday at age 71 from lung cancer, was part of an immensely creative stable of instrumentalists that recorded for the European ECM label during the ‘70s and ‘80s. On occasion, his playing would venture into artier areas of the pop mainstream, as shown by contributions to Talking Heads’ Little Creatures and Paul Simon’s The Rhythm of the Saints. But it was through the ECM projects – recordings of jazz, worldbeat and ambient abstractions – that Vasconcelos blended colors from shakers and the stringed Brazilian instrument known as the berimbau along with otherworldly chants to chart a new stylistic plain.

Probably the most visible and lasting of these alliances was an early ‘80s tenure with the Pat Metheny Group. The sense of joint adventure panned out initially on the 1981 collaborative album between guitarist Metheny and his longtime keyboardist Lyle Mays, As Falls Wichita, So Falls Wichita Falls, and the PMG’s equally far-reaching followup, 1982’s Offramp. Vasconcelos highlighted both recordings during an October 1982 concert at the Singletary Center for the Arts with the PMG (his only Lexington appearance that I know of). He followed Metheny through avenues of cool, groove and cinematically expansive atmospherics. But it was during As Falls Wichita’s suite-like title tune that Vasconcelos went wild, emitting shrieks and chants over Mays’ waves of synthesizers. The combined sound approximated the landing of a helicopter on the Singletary stage for a rescue mission. A milder version of that glorious mayhem was captured on the PMG’s 1983 concert album Travels.

There were scores of other great recordings that have emphasized Vasconcelos’ globally inclined/cosmically accented playing. Leading the pack are a string of fascinating trio albums featuring percussionist/sitar stylist Colin Walcott and trumpeter Don Cherry (under the group name Codona) and three beautiful records with Brazilian guitarist/pianist Egberto Gismonti (all six are on ECM).

But the image of him in a sonic field of wonder and danger at the Singletary is what I will always remember most about Vasconcelos, an artist from Brazil but a musical ambassador of the world.

critic’s pick 316: various artists, ‘god don’t ever change – the songs of blind willie johnson

god don't ever changeFew artists lived the blues with a severity that equaled their performance drive as Blind Willie Johnson. Born poor, supposedly blinded by his stepmother after having lye thrown in his face and dead by age 48, Johnson led an existence even Southern sharecroppers that cultivated blues and gospel music over the last century would shutter from. But he sang the music with rigid conviction, underscoring his ragged tenor (and occasional bass) singing with slide guitar that provided wiry counterpoint to his immovable faith.

In the extensive, Grammy-worthy liner notes to the new Johnson tribute album God Don’t Ever Change, producer Jeffrey Gaskill terms the lost blues giant’s music as “imperishable,” a quality brought often eerily to life by an all-star roster that includes Tom Waits, Lucinda Williams, the Blind Boys of Alabama and Tedechi-Trucks, among others.

Unsurprisingly, the Waits tunes – The Soul of a Man and John the Revelator – alone make the album a worthwhile purchase. The lean, earnest might of both songs are carried by the singer’s familiar doomsday chant and the thundering percussion of drummer/son Casey Waits.

Williams, a versed blues stylist long before her sublime original music garnered attention, travels similar and seemingly murky paths during It’s Nobody’s Fault But Mine and God Don’t Ever Change’s title tune, the latter sporting a powerfully stark intro that Williams sings alone before her band’s groove oozes in like a bayou river.

Similarly, the husband-and-wife crew of Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi, give their orchestra-sized band the day off and tackle Keep Your Lamps Trimmed and Burning as a bare bones gospel piece with Trucks’ potent but unforced slide guitar colors leading the charge. The Blind Boys of Alabama’s Mother’s Children Have a Hard Time (a retitled Motherless Children) is a slice of sweet, churchy solace while Luther Dickinson’s version of Bye and Bye I’m Going to See the King with the Rising Star Fife and Drum Band is a cheery requiem full of rustic, percussive Southern soul.

Now for the surprise. Cowboy Junkies awaken from Americana purgatory to pull a rabbit of the hat with Jesus Is Coming Soon. Singer Margo Timmons sounds positively possessed as she chants verses about a land’s desperate quest for faith amid the decimation of Spanish Flu alongside a sample of Johnson singing the chorus. It’s a wild, fuzzed out spiritual nightmare and the last thing you would expect from the usually sleepy sounding Junkies.

Conversely, Maria McKee’s Let Your Light Shine on Me does just that. Amid the darker corners of God Don’t Ever Change, the singer serves up gospel testimony that is effortlessly bright and soulful. It’s more than call to wake the spirits. It’s a summons for Johnson to take his forgotten place in the pantheon of blues righteousness.

sir george martin, 1926-2016

george martin.

george martin.

Perhaps no other contemporary British musicmaker more rightly bore the title of ‘Sir’ before his name than George Martin.

To my generation, the legendary producer, who died last night at the age of 90, was the patriarch of British pop whose eventual global reach in the construction of melody and arrangements was unparalleled. Though wildly learned, he kept his ears and mind open by employing ideas of the past to adorn new pop concepts in an age when cross-generational music making was largely unheard of.

The catalyst for Martin’s grand career was a band called The Beatles. To their remarkably forward thinking pop songs he added the inspirations of more versed and traditionally inclined ears – classical accents, harmonic structures and all kind of studio finesse that enriched songs like Yesterday, Eleanor Rigby and A Day in the Life to sound unlike anything audiences had experienced up to that point. That this remarkable alliance continued right up to the finale of The Beatles with Abbey Road also demonstrated the remarkable trust that existed between artist and producer. The ideas pioneered by this storied pop alliance continue to echo through all forms of contemporary music.

Martin maintained a sense of restlessness long after The Beatles dissolved. One of my favorite ‘70s records under his direction was Jeff Beck’s Blow By Blow, a groundbreaking album of instrumental reinvention by the storied British guitarist – a record highlighted by Beck’s dazzling intuition and Martin’s robust production and orchestration.

I had the opportunity to sit down with Sir George in 2004, prior to a presentation he gave for the then-Lexington based ideaFestival. Eloquent, gracious and impeccably mannered despite the onset of hearing loss, he stressed the role of a producer was to enhance an artist’s creative concept, not intrude upon it.

“The producer is never the important guy. The important guy is the one who wrote the original piece of music. The producer comes after that. His job is to get to know who he’s dealing with and do everything he can to bring out the best in a performance and help shape the frame what goes around that performance. You can do that in different ways. Some producers do it by bullying. I can’t subscribe to that. I’ve got to get the fellow to like me and trust me so he will listen to me. It’s terribly important for a young producer to get that credibility.”

There you have George Martin: artistic nobleman, pop architect and father figure.

in performance: dwight yoakam

Dwight Yoakam last night at the Lexington Opera House.

Dwight Yoakam last night at the Lexington Opera House. Herald-Leader staff photo by Rich Copley.

Just after the scheduled showtime passed last night at the Opera House, and with it the stage announcement that headliner DwightYoakam was delayed in air travel somewhere between Lexington and Atlanta, a decidedly non-country tune shot through the venue. It was a recording of the 1964 Beatles hit I Feel Fine – two-and-a-half minutes of jubilant Brit pop perfection.

Shoot ahead nearly three hours and the modestly delayed Yoakam was in the thick of the first of two encores, plowing through I Feel Fine in the flesh. It sounded perfectly natural in the hands of the Pikeville-born country music veteran, too. The performance was both a celebration of the song’s overseas origins (the guitar-happy hooks, the jangly harmonies) as well as Yoakam’s continued ingenuity in adding colors and inspirations from generations past into his own California country punch bowl. It was a blast of roots music that was hip, clever, fun and more than a little emotional – much like the other 30 or songs the singer stuffed into his sold out, two hour program.

The hip aspect has long been played up in Yoakam’s music, and was so again last night. Before kicking into a show-opening cover of the honky tonk staple Dim Lights, Thick Smoke and Loud, Loud Music that was revved up into a steamrolling Americana anthem, he was introduced as being “from Hollywood, California” (his long adopted home) instead of Kentucky. Certainly the T. Rex flavored reading of Ring of Fire and the sleek doo-wah vocal line of Pocket of a Clown that came later in the set underscored that sense of West Coast roots rock revisionism. But pre-pop country fare from Yoakam’s 1986 debut album Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc. Etc. – specifically the Big Sandy tribute Bury Me and the self-explanatory Miner’s Prayer (“Please take my soul from ‘neath that cold dark ground”) vividly upheld his Eastern Kentucky heritage.

Perhaps understandably, the show focused heavily the first decade of Yoakam’s career – the era that scored him the most plentiful number of hits. Yoakam was in strong though heavily stoic form for most of them, from the galvanizing heartbreak tale that served as the title tune to 1990’s If There Was a Way album to his backbeat heavy hit version of Little Sister. By the end of the show, though, the hit parade had essentially dissolved into an extended medley with slightly truncated versions of This Time, Honky Tonk Man, A Thousand Miles from Nowhere and more being raced through as though Yoakam was running late for another show. They were serviceable performances, but given how sterling the material was and how inventive the singer has always been, the flow sounded like curiously perfunctory and, at times, tired.

In contrast, newer works from 2012’s 3 Pairs and 2015’s Second Hand Heart – easily Yoakam’s finest recordings since his split with producer and longtime band co-hort Pete Anderson in 2003 – were full of fire, especially the title tune to Second Hand Heart (invigorated with another shot of Brit pop) and the guitar riff-laden Liar. Neither earned crowd reactions as hearty as the ones that greeted the hits, but the songs clearly showed how involving Yoakam can still be when he isn’t continually traveling the roads linking Hollywood to Kentucky that he has come to know perhaps too well.

striking out the band: houndmouth rocks on

Houndmouth, from left: Katie Toupin, Shane Cody, Zak Appleby and Matt Myers.  Photo by Dusdin Condren.

Houndmouth, from left: Katie Toupin, Shane Cody, Zak Appleby and Matt Myers. Photo by Dusdin Condren.

Shane Cody didn’t sense any pressure when Houndmouth began work on the followup to its 2013 debut album From the Hills Below the City. He didn’t, that is, until someone brought up the subject.

“We were all so new to being a real band, so we didn’t think about any of that until we got asked that question right before we were about to record,” said the drummer. “We were like, ‘Oh, thanks. No pressure.’ But there wasn’t any, really. We’re just going to keep writing what we want to write. We don’t feel pressure from any of that – at least, I don’t.”

From the Hills proved to be a major breakout for the New Albany/Louisville based quartet with a collection of earthy, homegrown Americana tunes that earned frequent comparison to The Band’s vintage blend of roots music ingenuity and elemental rock ‘n’ roll. The considerable touring for Houndmouth that ensued heightened audiences’ expectations for the 2015 followup, Little Neon Limelight. It also sharpened the abilities of Cody, guitarist Matt Myers, keyboardist Katie Toupin and bassist Zak Appleby to work as a more cohesive and industrious unit. In short, the four learned how to further their musical identity as a band.

“I think Little Neon Limelight is pretty much – collectively, as a band – our first record. That’s how I look at it. We had had the songs from the first record kind of before knowing each other personally. Really, we only wrote a couple of those songs together. So this is our first record as a real band, I think. So it was cool to work with each other a little more. Basically, the approach was pretty much whoever writes a song sings it. But the music also kind of got thrown into a pot. We would take this verse or that chorus and kind of split things up.”

What resulted were songs that downplayed the Americana reflections (save for all the swirling B3-like keyboard lines that still bring Garth Hudson of The Band to mind) by beefing up the pop vocabulary. That practice explains the revved up Beach Boys flavor of 15 Years, the pure pop stride of Black Gold and the stark, spacious sounding Gasoline.

“The songs just kind of went off on their own,” Cody said. “When we were writing a song, we were never like, ‘Oh, let’s make it sound like this.’ I would never write a pop song like that. Like, for Gasoline, we were sitting outside the studio in a little kitchenette area. We were sitting on a couch, making a bourbon or making some coffee and someone was like, ‘That sounds really good. What is that?’ So we set the room mics up in the kitchen and we all recorded within the room, just us and two mics. It was real spontaneous. Probably one of my favorite moments.’

“Someone,” in this instance, was producer of the moment Dave Cobb, the seemingly omnipresent pop/Americana stylist behind recent records by Jason Isbell and Kentuckians Chris Stapleton and Sturgill Simpson.

“Dave was really cool – super laid back and a really great guy. I didn’t know too much about him before. But when I walked into his studio for the first time, we were all in this little room working and Dave would come in almost like a maestro in an orchestra. He’d grab a shaker or something and point at me and be like, ‘A little louder’ or ‘a little softer.’ It was cool. We just decided to leave a bunch of the banter with us talking on the record.’ We were like, ‘Why not? It’s what it was – all of us a room together just playing music.”

References to The Band still haunt Houndmouth, but the spirits are a lot friendlier these days now that the foursome has actually dissected the recordings of its would-be inspiration along with the solo music of perhaps its most prominent member, the late Levon Helm.

“When we started getting all the Band comparisons, we didn’t know much about them. We knew The Weight and Up On Cripple Creek, but none of us really delved deep into their catalog. Once we started getting those comparisons, we all went on a binge. So later, Levon definitely became a huge influence, obviously with me with his singing and drumming. I’ve actually changed the side of my microphone, where I put it when I sing, to what he did. You can get a little more range when you put it to your right and higher up. So for that, thanks Levon.

“Here’s one of the coolest things that has happened to me. A couple of years ago, our van got broken into. I had just found a Levon solo record called Electric Dirt. It was sealed. I bought it in a record store, although I forget where we were. When the van got broken into, that got taken, so I tweeted something about it. Then last year, on my doorstep, a fan just sent me a copy of it. It blew my mind. It was the nicest, coolest thing ever.”

Houndmouth and Justin Paul Lewis perform at 9 p.m. March 4 at Manchester Music Hall, 899 Manchester St. The performance is sold out.

critic’s pick 315: loretta lynn, ‘full circle’

loretta-lynn-full-circle-album-cover“Oh, Lord,” chuckles Loretta Lynn at the onset of Full Circle, topping off of a minute of studio banter that serves as an obvious set up for what it is to follow – specifically, a blast of living country history the Kentucky native, at age 83, ignites with a command that serves as a figurative snap of the fingers.

“Let it rip, boys.”

With that, Lynn spins back the years to revisit the first song he ever composed, the startling Whispering Sea. The inspiration for the tune, as culled from her album-opening chat, wasn’t her Butcher Holler upbringing or her ribald story-songs of marital misconduct. It is something more succinct and exact yet notably less dramatic: fishing. But once the song’s regal, waltz-like melody unfolds, Lynn lets loose with a voice that is clear, endearing and remarkably free from any real ravages of age.

Produced by John R. Cash (son of Johnny Cash) and Patsy Lynn Russell (Lynn’s daughter), Full Circle spends much of its time reviewing the past, whether in re-cutting songs Lynn recorded decades ago (Everybody Wants to Go to Heaven) or approaching roots music staples from the singer’s childhood (two A.P. Carter nuggets, Black Jack David and I Never Will Marry). A pair of splendid new works then close out her first full studio album since 2004’s Grammy winning Van Lear Rose.

Of the oldies, Fist City is the unavoidable highpoint. Originally a hit for Lynn in 1968, the song has lost none of its catfighting spirit, choosing to target the forwardness of an intruding female over the waywardness of a philandering husband (“The man I love, when he picks up trash, he puts it in the garbage can”). But it is the assertiveness of the present day Cash’s elder stance and the sheer strength of her vocals that sell this new version.

Curiously, Everything It Takes, a new work Lynn wrote with Todd Snider, follows a similar but vulnerable path, where marital encroachment becomes a more pronounced, pathos-laden threat (“She’s got everything it takes to take everything you got”). Elvis Costello harmonizes on the song, but he’s a largely invisible presence. Lynn’s regal wail rules this little aria.

Best of all, Full Circle promises to be the first of many albums slated to be pulled from the nearly 100 songs Lynn and Cash have cut since 2007. Such a legacy-oriented project could well rival Johnny Cash’s American Recordings series, which stands as one of the great career victory laps by an iconic Americana artist. Judging by Full Circle, though, Lynn still has plenty of performance fuel left in the tank before her race is run.

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