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The Doctor is In (5/31/2002) Write to CD Shakedown
Clarence CarterThe Best of Clarence Carter: The Doctor's Greatest Prescriptions (Koch 2001) - It looks like we can all learn something new. Best of Clarence Carter came at me out of nowhere. Yet I learned that this blind blues singer/guitarist has a following that goes way back to the 60's, when he cut a number of sides for Atlantic Records.

Best of Clarence Carter shows the singer's bawdy and blues side, with songs like "I'm Not Just Good, I'm the Best," "Grandpa Can't Fly His Kite," and "Kiss You All Over."

Clarence CarterClarence Carter (born in 1936) is best known for his hit, "60 Minute Man." Carter continues to focus on love - late night, midnight love - on his standout, "Strokin.'" Also listen for the smooth blues on "Trying to Sleep Tonight."

The production is polished, but the emphasis is carnal. If you want an introduction to a smooth blues man with a nod and a wink, go for Best of Clarence Carter.

George StraitGeorge Strait, The Road Less Traveled (MCA Nashville 2001) - You have to admire George Strait. Since his debut, Straight Country, in 1981, the singer has sales of more than 57 million records. Straight is a country phenomena, drawing on the traditional sounds of steel guitar and twin fiddles.

His 28th album, The Road Less Traveled, finds the Texan (and card-carrying member of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys' Association) working in his steady groove. Strait works with a tried and proven band, including Randy Scruggs on acoustic guitar, Steve Gibson and Chris Leuzinger on electric guitar, Michael Rhodes on bass, Steve Nathan on keyboards, Paul Franklin on steel guitar, Stuart Duncan on fiddle and mandolin, and Steve Conn on accordion.

ResistolWearing a Resistol hat, Wrangler jeans and cowboy books, Strait has always played off his traditional cowboy image. A lot of what comes out of Nashville doesn't sound like country, but George Straight (with hits like "Amarillo by Morning," and "Ace in the Hole") carries on the tradition.

George StraitYou're not going to get any surprises with ballads like "Run" and the smooth "Living and Living Well." Yet Straight knows how to dip into Nashville's songwriting well. Says the singer, "Melody is the first thing I hear in a song. I'm always looking for great material, so I listen to songs all the time." Thus, you'll find "Good Time Charley's," a 1969 hit for Del Reeves (written by Jerry Chestnut), and Rodney Crowell's, "Stars on the Water."

According to producer and label honcho Tony Brown, "Some artists take months to record an album. That's not George. He is so strong musically. The difference between George and other artists is that they feel the pressure of having to keep the heat turned up on their careers, and making a hit record every time in."

George StraitAdd Brown, "George isn't trendy and doesn't rely on what's hot or hip. He is one of a very few country artists who is traditional, but also contemporary . . . He has a great vision of himself as an artist, and he doesn't have to reinvent himself every time he goes into the studio."

Country fans will be rewarded when Strait draws to a close with "My Life's Been Grand," written by Merle Haggard. Says the singer, "This song has so much truth in it about me. For me, the title says it all."

Trisha YearwoodTrisha Yearwood, Inside Out (MCA Nashville 2001) - Now ten years into her recording career, Trisha Yearwood has scored gold or better with every album she has released, and was voted 1997 and 1998 Country Music Association female vocalist of the year. Inside Out continues her winning ways, backed by her tried-and-true band.

Trisha YearwoodTrisha is a smart cookie, who stays within her boundaries. Trisha works with a proven band that includes B. James Lowry on acoustic guitar, Brent Rowan on electric guitar, Steuart Smith on electric slide guitar, Michael Rhodes on bass, Shannon Forest on drums, Steve Nathan on keyboards, Paul Franklin on steel, and Eric Darken on percussion. Rounding out her sound are strings arranged and conducted by David Campbell and performed by the Nashville String Machine.

In addition to Trisha's studio albums, she has appeared on a host of special projects, including the Honeymoon in Vegas soundtrack, on which she performed "Devil in Disguise," as well as contributing "New Kid in Town" for Common Thread: The Songs of the Eagles.

Trisha YearwoodTrisha's trademark is big voiced weepers, such as "Melancholy Blue" in which she harkens back to the sound of Linda Ronstadt. Explains Trisha, "I am more comfortable with my voice than I have ever been. I think I am a more relaxed singer than I used to be. And that comes out in the energy I hear on this record."

Not unlike George Strait, Trisha knows how to pick a good song, and then to get help from a first-rate supporting cast. Thus, Andrew Gold provides backing vocals on "Love Again," and Vince Gill joins on "I Don't Paint Myself Into Corners" (penned by Rebecca Lynn Howard).

Trisha YearwoodIn addition, Kim Richey provides backing vocals on "I Would Have Loved You Anyway" and "For Awhile" (the song title reminds me of the great line from the film, "Grosse Pointe Blank").

The album's highlights include "Inside Out," written by Bryan Adams and performed with Don Henley on duet vocals, and a terrific remake of "Seven Year Ache," with help from Roseanne Cash, who wrote the song.

Trisha YearwoodTrisha's star burns brightly, as she was inducted into the cast of the Grand Ole Opry in 1999. In addition, she has had a recurring role on the CBS-TV series "Jag," in which she plays lieutenant commander Teresa Coulter.

Says Trisha, "She's totally military and wears a lot of white polyester. When you put the uniform on and get your hair back in a bun, it really kind of puts you in character. The minute you get in the clothes you feel, 'Okay, I have to behave myself now.'"

Trisha has advanced to the front row of Nashville performers. Inside Out highlights her skills.

- Randy Krbechek © 2002

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