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Not all of Fulks's attempts at rocking out work, though. A duet with Lucinda Williams, "Pretty Little Poison," is more grating noise than music; their voices are locked in a clashing stalemate, neither willing to give an inch. Without a doubt, Fulks is capable of plenty, no matter what direction he chooses. Here's hoping he stays a bit more focused next time out.

-- Jim Caligiuri

Various Artists
Sex-O-Rama: Classic Adult Film Music
Sex-O-Rama 2: Classic Adult Film Music
Oglio

If you watch porno movies for one reason and one reason only (not that there's anything wrong with that; just don't shake my hand), you're missing the big picture. Skin flicks, after all, are extravaganzas of ironic camp. Ten midnight screenings of a Rocky Horror Picture Show/Pink Flamingos double bill still couldn't match that brilliantly insipid dialogue, those glorious, empty-headed story lines, the decadent, laughable insanity of priceless titles such as Blubber Humpers and Black Meat, White Meat.

And let's not forget the music, which may well be as synonymous with hard-core cinema as the sex itself. Enter the California-based Oglio label, which pays homage to the X-rated soundtrack with two collections, Sex-O-Rama and Sex-O-Rama 2. Inspired by movie-house porn's golden decade, the 1970s, writer/producer Carvin Knowles and his appropriately pseudonymed sidemen (Sid Getzoff, Thomas "Fingers" Chelsea) conjure up their very own skin-flick backing track, pulling on bass strings and rattling wah-wah pedals to fictional movie tunes like "Blow Me Down," "Love Muscle," "Private Dick" and "The Money Shot." Perhaps the best track of the two releases is Sex-O-Rama 2's "Pearl Necklace," with its whirling synthesizer loops, wandering bass line and funky, back-alley saxophone riffs.

Funny thing is, no matter how awful Knowles and Company try to ruin things (and believe me, they do their damnedest to make it all blow), the result still sounds better than anything that passes for mood music in most sexploitation films, especially these days. If they're planning a third volume, they might as well go straight to the source and hire composers for real X-rated movies. That way, the put-on will be indisputably authentic -- just like a real porno movie, except without the beautiful women and nasty sex. Man, I'm lonely.

-- Craig D. Lindsey

Trisha Yearwood
Where Your Road Leads
MCA/Nashville

Though it's not clear exactly where the road will lead for Trisha Yearwood, there's little doubt as to how she travels it: straight down the middle. While she and her career advisers continue to court the Mariah/Celine/Whitney audience in pursuit of success, we're left with lots of slow ballads geared more toward home kitchens than honky-tonks.

Which, unfortunately, brings us to her latest CD, Where Your Road Leads. "Banal" is the only way to describe tracks such as "Never Let You Go Again," "I Don't Want to Be the One" and "Love Wouldn't Lie to Me." On second thought, add "cliche" to the list. Better not even to discuss the truly wretched lyrics ("More than three words and a diamond ring / It can open up your heart and make the angels sing").

Only on the more up-tempo numbers -- "There Goes My Baby," "Wouldn't Any Woman" and the I-heard-you-been-cheatin' ditty "That Ain't the Way I Heard It" -- does Yearwood come alive. Mostly, though, there's no real opportunity for her to belt it out; whether she's supposed to be expressing yearning, regret or hope, she sings with the same manner and tone. Even worse, a purported "duet" with Garth Brooks hardly lives up to the name, with the Crossover Cowboy adding little more than tepid backing vocals. And Trisha, sweetie, simply throwing in a steel-guitar lick here and there don't make it country.

Yearwood has never made it a secret that she'd like a career straddling the pop/country fence -- much like her idol, Linda Ronstadt. Call me naive, but I'm convinced there's still a stone-country soul deep down inside just yipping to get out.

-- Bob Ruggiero

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