Recorded for a small Canadian independent label, k.d. lang's debut album, A Truly Western Experience, didn't receive much exposure outside her homeland upon its initial release, and while it's a strong and confident piece of work, it also sounds like the product of an artist who was still figuring out just where she stood along the boundaries between pop and country. A Truly Western Experience is easily the most band-oriented album lang and her combo the Reclines would ever make; the group not only gets co-star billing, but pianist Stewart MacDougall even takes the lead vocal on one tune, "Up to Me," something that would never happen again on one of lang's albums. This edition of the Reclines was hardly the strongest group lang would ever work with (and guitarist Gord Matthews was the only musician who would still be on board when lang cut her major-label debut three years later), but the bandmembers are clearly sympathetic and their soulful blend of roots rock and country certainly plays to the sly side of lang's musical personality, and they can switch gears from the manic rockabilly of "Bopalena" and the lively country two-step of "Hanky Panky" to the slinky, blues-influenced "Tickled Pink" and "Busy Being Blue" with assurance. As for lang, she already had a superb voice and knew just what to do with it, but while there was usually a touch of irony in her approach to vintage country styles, the poke in the ribs threatens to leave a bruise on tunes like "Pine and Stew" and "Tickled Pink," and "Hooked on Junk" is easily the most self-consciously arty thing lang would cut prior to All You Can Eat, and not in a flattering way. In some respects, A Truly Western Experience sounds more personal and engaging than Angel with a Lariat, the 1987 album that introduced k.d. lang to an international audience, but by then she had a much clearer notion of where she was going with her music, and that's the one real flaw of her first album.
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AllMusic Review by Mark Deming