Joni Harms

After All

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This is Joni Harms' eighth album (counting a children's record and a Christmas record), only two of those discs having appeared on major labels, so she is by now an artist with a confirmed style. She calls that style "western music," and it consists of songs that recall the Western swing of Bob Wills, forays into Tex-Mex, and lots of references to cowboys. It's also happy music -- Harms' lyrical persona is romantically content, married to a cowboy, raising children, confident in her life and her faith. One song after another proclaims her devotion and satisfaction. Her warm, buoyant voice occasionally suggests Patsy Cline (especially in "Every Cowgirl's Dream"), but she has no interest in the wild side of life that Cline sometimes embraced. This is not a cowgirl who's going to go crazy or fall to pieces; she's going to dance a "West Texas Waltz" and then have some "Cowboy Coffee." One may protest that this is all a bit too wholesome; Harms' West doesn't seem to have a single gunrack or honky tonk in it. She remakes her own "I Want to Sing for You" as the album's closer, and though it's a believably straightforward statement of purpose, its declaration that "I want to make you blue" (which follows "I want to make you happy") is not fulfilled on this album. Maybe it's unfair to expect an artist to concoct a life that isn't true to her experience just for the sake of variety, but Harms' worldview is so well-scrubbed it doesn't seem entirely true to its subject. They say the Old West you see in the movies never really existed. The New West certainly does, but there must be more to it than what you hear in these songs.

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