Kelly Willis's Translated From Love

Verbose euphoria triumphs over beery, sad-sack country cliché

In the five years since Kelly Willis released the cookie-cutter acoustic country album Easy, she's been doing the mommy thing alongside husband Bruce Robison (who wrote "Travelin' Soldier" for fellow Texans the Dixie Chicks). But Willis's hiatus seems better explained by a line from "Too Much to Lose," off her splendid new record: "One more bitter drinking song and I'll be so far gone that I can't choose." Loose translation: She'll be damned if she was gonna cut a ho-hum album just to cut an album, so she waited until she had something worth saying. Translated From Love is a statement about transcendence as both a family woman and a careerist, alleviating as it does the burden of stereotypical mainstream country music with fresh, invigorating pop frankness. C'mon, who else in Willis's field is willing to cut loose with Iggy Pop's happy-go-lucky "Success" and Adam Green's bi-curious "Teddy Boys"? These and other songs, including Damon Bramblett's verbosely entertaining "Nobody Wants to Go to the Moon Anymore," share a euphoria uncommon to the genre, thanks in part to Moog synthesizer and Vox Continental organ action as frisky as the fishnet stockings and pointy yellow pumps that Willis wears on the album cover. Her drawl, by the way, remains intact.

 
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