Kelly Willis

With her girl-next-door good looks and the raucous, fun-loving approach she takes on her latest release, Translated from Love, alt-country chanteuse Kelly Willis is the kind of performer who can induce schoolboy crushes in fully grown men. Somehow, despite her one-two punch of looks and talent, Willis has never been able to make much commercial headway, in no small part due to the fact that, despite repeated label attempts, Willis has never allowed herself to be turned into Sheryl Crow. With this, her seventh major-label effort, Willis is poised to achieve that most elusive of musical goals — simultaneous critical and commercial success. Much less restrained than her previous release, 2001's aptly named Easy, Translated finds Kelly cutting loose vocally and stylistically, even offering up a honky-tonk version of an Iggy Pop song that was cowritten with David Bowie, the glam-inflected "Success." The vocally improvisational call-and-response song is sure to prove a crowd favorite. This set, with its broad-spectrum crossover appeal, should win over fans of CMT and CMJ.
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Nicholas Hall