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Reviews:Alt-country/Americana chanteuse Christy McWilson, former lead singer of Seattle's underrated Picketts, has one of the genre's more chilling voices; when she slides into her upper range it's full of the controlled mania that makes great country music, an appealing combination of hope and heartache. She's also willing to stretch in unexpected directions, exemplified by her ability to reinvent the tunes of others. When she turned Yoko Ono's "Walking on Thin Ice" into a dark, twang drenched rocker, it sounded perfect. On "Bed of Roses" Moby Grape's "805" becomes an achingly sad duet with producer Dave Alvin. The Youngbloods' "Darkness Darkness" follows the same down tempo path, emphasizing the lyric's bleak outlook.
But it's McWilson's originals that really make this album take off and soar. Her writing has really matured since her Hightone debut, 2000's Lucky One. The songs have a stronger traditional feel, emotionally, melodically and lyrically. McWilson seldom raises her voice, but her quiet, controlled performance intensifies the emotional impact of the tunes. "Sheep Song" sounds like an agnostic spiritual, full of sadness and longing for a better tomorrow that the performance implies will never come. "Serpentine River" echoes a '50s teen death ballad; McWilson sounds close to tears while Alvin's reverb drenched lead intensifies the song's feeling of hopelessness and heartache. Even when McWilson sings "I still want to believe in love" on the up tempo "True Believer," there's a hint of anguish in her voice that takes the tune to another level.