For the record: Patty Loveless' Mountain Soul II is not a strict sequel to its 2001 predecessor. Whereas the former album was chock-full of bluegrass tunes both historical and contemporary, the sequel is a far more diverse collection that includes traditional songs, country music classics, and some new originals -- and yes, there are a couple of bluegrass tunes in the mix. Loveless and her husband, producer Emory Gordy, Jr., recruited a remarkable cast of players and backing vocalists, and wrote some stellar tunes to put alongside hallmark favorites on this mostly acoustic date. The guests are a star-studded list of session players and singers including Vince Gill, Emmylou Harris, Rebecca Lynn Howard, steel boss Al Perkins, and fiddler Stuart Duncan, to mention only a slim few. The set opens with a mountain version of Harlan Howard's standard "Busted," featuring no less than bluegrass legend Del McCoury on guitar and lead chorus vocal and son Ronnie on mandolin; Rob Ickes plays Dobro and Bryan Sutton plays banjo (these latter three appear on multiple cuts). It's followed by an utterly moving version of Susannah Clark and Rodney Crowell's broken love song "Fools Thin Air," with Mike Auldridge on Dobro and Carl Jackson on banjo. There is a stellar vocal trio on the traditional "Friends in Gloryland," sung a cappella with Gill and Howard. The pair also appears with Loveless on the gorgeous "Blue Memories." Another a cappella number is Loveless and Gordy's "(We Are All) Children of Abraham," with the Burnt Hickory Primitive Baptist Congregation, who sound more like pre-Thomas Dorsey gospel music than the postwar historical model. There is a lovely version of Barbara Keith's "Bramble and the Rose," before the album closes with Kostas' tender leaving song "Feelings of Love" and "Diamond in My Crown," the latter penned by Emmylou Harris and Paul Kennerley. This last track, with Harris on tenor backing vocal and Butch Lee on a vintage pump organ, leaves the set on a haunting, lonesome note. Mountain Soul II is every bit as fine as the original Mountain Soul was, and is more adventurous. Loveless and Gordy make no concessions to contemporary country music and don't seem to give a damn about the charts. Loveless has built a following that may not be in the millions anymore, but it is plentiful enough in numbers to support her enthusiastically in whatever endeavor she attempts to undertake. And why not? Since 2000, every record she's released has been at least as good as the one that preceded it, and this is no exception.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek