Thad Cockrell

Warmth & Beauty

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Thad Cockrell's first album was tossed off in a single session, but this sophomore follow-up was recorded at a more deliberate pace and is thus far better produced and executed. There is a less rushed quality to these country-folk tunes, helped immensely by Cockrell's lovely, lazy tenor voice. Singing somewhat like a young Loudon Wainwright III, this is pure country music, untainted by commercial considerations and without rock influences. There's more than a hint of Gram Parsons here as well, and much of this album would sound just fine next to the first few Flying Burrito Brothers discs. In fact, "My Favorite Memory," with its aching melody and slight R&B underpinnings, seems like it's written with Parsons in mind. There's also a dab of Dwight Yoakam, especially in the Bakersfield twang of "What's the Use." Kudos especially to producer Chris Stamey, whose light touch spotlights Cockrell's voice prominently in the mix, exactly where it should be, and supports it with weepy pedal steel (from Tift Merritt's Greg Reading) and honky tonk piano (courtesy of ex-Jayhawk Jen Gunderman) that is dramatic but not overwhelming. The album is front-loaded with its best and most upbeat songs, leaving the final 15 minutes to drag slightly in comparison. But Warmth & Beauty perfectly describes this charming and moving contemporary country release. It's a triumph forThad Cockrell, who shows himself to be an artist who revels in the past but puts his distinctive spin on music that is moving and obviously heartfelt.

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