Linda Ronstadt

Linda Ronstadt

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In many regards, Linda Ronstadt's self-titled third album isn't much different than her first two. Like Hand Sown…Home Grown and Silk Purse, Linda Ronstadt combines classic country songs -- Johnny Cash's "I Still Miss Someone," Patsy Cline's "I Fall to Pieces," Jerry Lee Lewis' "Crazy Arms," the folk standard "Ramblin' Round" -- with new songs from rising songwriters (Jackson Browne, Eric Kaz, Livingston Taylor, Neil Young, Eric Andersen) and an R&B cover (Fontella Bass' "Rescue Me"), but the difference is synthesis. Here, Ronstadt doesn't run from her Californian base, nor does she attempt to fit into the confines from Nashville; she finds the common threads between the songs and sounds, tying together her love of the old and new right along with her love of country, rock, and soul. Certainly, she's assisted by a versatile, sympathetic backing band assembled by producer John Boylan, a band that would later work on their own as the Eagles, but there's never a suggestion that the band is attempting to outshine the singer. All are united by the music, enjoying turning "I Still Miss Someone" and "Crazy Arms" into country ballads, breathing full life into Browne's "Rock Me on the Water," playing "I Fall to Pieces" with a muscularity that avoids overt homage, and reveling in the harmonies on Young's "Birds." This is music for the dawn of the '70s, music that shakes off some of the hippie dreams of the '60s in favor of lushly detailed authenticity that has an eye on the past while living for the present. Ronstadt might not have wound up with a smash hit here -- "Rock Me on the Water" did make some radio waves -- but this is the birth of the aesthetic that would serve her well throughout the '70s, and it remains potent.

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