Jeannie C. Riley

Harper Valley P.T.A.

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The album based on the multimillion-selling title track is a fine recording that goes beyond the obvious attraction to the Tom T. Hall classic. It comes across nearly as a concept album that mirrors life in a small town in all its faults and tribulations, though not all songs make direct reference to Harper Valley. At the center of all this is the underrated voice of Jeannie C. Riley, which has the right combination of strength, sass, and vulnerability to make the songs come alive. The listener is treated to songs detailing the characters mentioned in the hit title song, such as Mr. Harper, Widow Jones (who comes across as the worst of the three), and Shirley Thompson. Musically, many of the songs seem almost a copy of "Harper Valley P.T.A," but they usually work because each has its own distinct story to tell, and the sincerity of Riley's voice reinforces the tales well. "No Brass Band" is a welcome change from the formula, and paints the detailed story of a family's dreams that go unfulfilled. There is also fine Dobro work by "Jerry Kennedy," and the production of "Shelby Singleton" keeps to a harder country sound that avoids the pitfalls of strings and unnecessary vocal backgrounds.

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