Vince Gill

The Key

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On The Key, Vince Gill presents a rather dazzling array of traditional styles to display his versatile talent. Going back to his Oklahoma country roots for inspiration, something he hasn't done in many years, he comes out with a recording so startling that even heavy-handed producer Tony Brown left it pretty much alone.Gill is in fine voice throughout, joining with a colorful cast of backing singers -- including Patty Loveless, Alison Krauss, Sara Evans, Lee Ann Womack, and Faith Hill -- to create the type of music that contemporary country radio has not played in over a decade. Over 13 tracks, Gill eases gracefully from one roots country style to another, from a classic hillbilly waltz to the edgy Bakersfield sound. He even skillfully tips his hat to guitar great Roy Nichols on "There's Not Much Love Here Anymore." A duet with Loveless, "My Kind of Woman/My Kind of Man," stands proudly next to the best country duets of George Jones and Tammy Wynette and Merle Haggard and Bonnie Owens. Most impressive is "Kindly Keep It Country," a stone-cold hard country song that details one man's heartbreak and the soothing effects of a jukebox and a bar stool. As heartbreaking as any song he's ever written is "Let Her In," told from the perspective of a divorced father who is trying to rebuild his life and still retain his relationship with his daughter. Just as effective is "The Hills of Caroline," a mountain bluegrass tune with a strong melody and narrative enhanced by the beautiful backing vocals of Krauss. The closing title cut is an endearing acoustic country tune, complete with mandolins and banjo, that comes directly from Gill's relationship with his late father. For emotional depth, honesty, and the kind of musical depth and artistry listeners have come to expect from Gill, The Key stands among his very finest recordings.

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