Kacey Jones

Kacey Jones Sings Mickey Newbury

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Singer and songwriter Kacey Jones has built a strong reputation as a musical comedian, first as a member of the group Ethel & the Shameless Hussies and more recently as a solo act, recording albums of silly ditties such as Never Wear Panties to a Party and Every Man I Love Is Either Married, Gay or Dead. However, Jones offers a look at the more serious side of her musical personality with Kacey Jones Sings Mickey Newbury, in which she covers 15 songs by the legendary Nashville songwriter. Like his friend and colleague Kris Kristofferson, Mickey Newbury brought an intelligence, lyricism, and depth to Nashville songwriting that still held firm ties to the warmth and direct emotion of the best country music when he first appeared in the mid-'60s; Newbury also befriended Kacey Jones early in her career, and these performances reveal a deep love for Newbury's writing, and a keen appreciation of the emotional stakes of these songs. For someone best known for delivering musical punchlines, Jones fares well on this set; her rich voice suggests an artist with a firm grasp of jazz vocal stylings as well as country-styled material, and she finds a degree of musical sophistication in the melodies that honors Newbury's material. The arrangements and production are glossy and cleanly executed, but perhaps a bit too slick for their own good; the backings lack the firm but ruddy humanity of Jones' vocals, and while the audio collages that link the songs are suitably atmospheric, they distract from the music more than they add to it. But if Kacey Jones Sings Mickey Newbury is flawed, it still presents 15 great songs from a man who knew how to write them, sung by a woman with a clear appreciation of their musical importance and heart-tugging power -- which is to say this album accomplishes what it sets out to do despite its weaknesses.

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