Here Comes the Judd

Three years ago, Wynonna Judd seemed set to become the new queen of country music. As half of the Judds, Wynonna crafted with mother Naomi a blend of earthy twang and slickness that helped reignite country's traditionalist movement in the early '80s. Over a seven-year, seven-album period, the pair scored an unbroken string of platinum and gold records and more than a dozen hit singles.

And when the Judds' career was cut short by Naomi's chronic hepatitis, Wynonna jumped into a solo career with no loss of momentum. Her 1992 debut, Wynonna, sold four million copies, the best-selling studio album ever for a female country artist. The 1993 follow-up, Tell Me Why, continued the winning streak, selling three million copies. Wynonna hit the road behind that CD with Clint Black on the "Black & Wy" tour, one of the most popular country concert packages of recent memory. With her career in overdrive, many wondered what -- if anything -- could stop Wynonna from ripping the crown of country's leading female performer right from Reba McEntire's head.

That "anything" appeared in the spring of 1994, when Wynonna revealed that she was pregnant by Nashville businessman Arch Kelly III. She announced that she would take a nine-month sabbatical to have the baby and determine whether she and Kelly would marry. With Wynonna suddenly retreating from the spotlight, the tabloid press went wild. Judd had often spoken about the uncertainties she felt as she had to take control of her career without her mother's help, and plenty of people wondered how she would survive this crisis -- and if she could regain the musical form that had won her such enormous popularity.

Wynonna answered many of those questions with last year's Revelations, a collection of emotionally open songs that offered a familiar mix of up-tempo country tunes spiced with a hint of blues and soul, as well as several rich ballads. The CD yielded an immediate number one hit in "To Be Loved by You" and went platinum in just two months. But just as Revelations was hitting its commercial stride came a new set of revelations: Wynonna was pregnant with a second child, and she and Kelly would indeed marry. Once again her career went on hold.

Without a doubt, the events of the past two years have given Wynonna a different perspective on her career and its place in her life. "It's hard to find a balance between career and family," she admits. "The biggest challenge for me daily is allowing myself the time for both professional and personal details .... When I feel weary and worn, the things that keep me going are my faith and my family. So going back on the road means that I have to work on finding peace and happiness during the simple times as well as the complex. Wow, what a concept!"

But to hear Wynonna tell it, she's now ready to pick up where she left off when she was burning up the concert circuit with Black. "Now that I have my body back," she says, "I can look forward to getting back to my workouts, riding my Harley and being on-stage. I'm inspired! ... I'm happier than I've ever been about the band and the music, and I feel that things on the road are going to be the best they've ever been. I've suddenly felt an incredible burst of energy about my career. I'm in a constant state of excitement knowing that now I have my chance again to get out there and kick the big booty."

-- Alan Scully

Wynonna Judd performs Thursday, February 27, at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo at the Astrodome. Music follows the rodeo action, which begins at 7 p.m. Tickets to rodeo and concert are $10. For info, call 791-9000.

Roy Haynes -- Don't let the hat and cowboy boots give you the wrong idea: Texas blues is what Roy Haynes is all about. And his recently released Wishing Well gives ample evidence of the high regard his fellow musicians have for him. If you're a fan of Double Trouble, Storyville or the Bluebloods, you'll recognize the names of the veterans who backed him up on this guitar-on-fire CD. Haynes obviously studied the masters while developing his style; there are frequent nods to everyone from Elmore James to Johnny Winter in his licks, while his "Albert's Shuffle" -- written in memory of the late, great Albert Collins -- is both a classic bit of Texas double-shuffle and a tribute to one of Haynes's heroes. If you haven't had a good dose of burning-down-the-roadhouse Texas electric blues lately, this is what you've been missing. At Rockefeller's, 3620 Washington Avenue, at 9 p.m. Friday, February 28. Tickets are $15. 869-TICS. (Jim Sherman)

Michael Hedges -- Gypsy guitar magician Michael Hedges is a man in motion. You can sense it in his playing -- a complex overlay of classical technique, folktale intimacy, subversive pop melody and sheer rocker's drive -- and you can witness it in his lifestyle: The guy is always on the road. His latest release, the stylistically vast Oracle, offers additional evidence of Hedges's wandering spirit. He can't keep focused on any one idea for long, whacking and popping the strings of his acoustic six-string or his harp-guitar hybrid like an unplugged Joe Satriani one minute, and playing multi-instrumental minstrel in the forest with flutes and pennywhistles the next. Hedges's work can challenge anyone who pays attention, and witnessing his otherworldly command of his instrument live is enough to make anyone pay attention. At Rockefeller's, 3620 Washington Avenue, at 8 p.m. Sunday, March 2 . Tickets are $22.50 to $37.50. 869-TICS. (Hobart Rowland)

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Hobart Rowland
Alan Sculley
Jim Sherman