Hoping to restore a bit of pride following her disastrous performance at the Tour de France ceremony, Lesley Garrett's 14th studio album, A North Country Lass, is a hugely patriotic affair that is less likely to leave cyclist Bradley Wiggins with such a pained expression. Like last year's solo effort from All Angels' Laura Wright, the follow-up to 2008's Amazing Grace eschews the usual operatic standards for a series of traditional folk ballads that span from Henry VII's most famous composition, "Pastime with Good Company," to 19th century Welsh lullaby "Suo Gan." Having reunited with James Fitzpatrick, the man who guided most of her early-'90s output, the Doncaster soprano sounds rejuvenated, her expressive and somehow still youthful vocals lending a warmth to the emotionally stirring "The Bold Grenadier," the elegant Robert Burns-penned "My Love Is Like a Red Red Rose," and the gentle melancholy of "Once I Had a Sweetheart," while her comedic skills shine on the parping brass of Gracie Fields favorite "The Collier Lad" and the operatic spoof "On Ilkley Moor Baht'at." The theatrics aren't always so enchanting, as evident on the slightly ham-fisted "The Raggle Taggle Gypsies," while the arrangements, performed by the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra, can sometimes be a little too bombastic, as on the melodramatic "Blow the Wind Southerly." But overall, A North Country Lass is a return to form from the classical crossover genre's true original diva.
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AllMusic Review by Jon O'Brien