For Austin chanteuse Kelly Willis, it’s been five years and three children since she last released a solo album. Trading Dobros for diapers didn’t dull her instincts; Willis’ sump- tuous voice retains a hunger that elevates even the most pedestrian works. And she has certainly encountered her share of those: From her Tony Brown–produced Nashville days to her current earthier country rock, Willis hasn’t always matched her powerhouse voice to strong material. Translated From Love (Rykodisc), in fact, was initially planned as a covers album. Yet with help from producer Chuck Prophet and writers such as Jules Shear, half of her new tunes are originals—and they shine. “Stone’s Throw Away,” “Losing You,” and “Sweet Little One” are vintage Willis tracks of warm, endearing pop. There are a few surprises too: Willis covers Iggy Pop (!) with backup from the Gourds, and “I Must Be Lucky” rocks startlingly hard. Still, these moments come off as flirting. As in the past, several tracks seem stuck on middle ground—not quite country, not quite rock. Willis wants to bridge both camps, but a nudge in either direction might not be such a bad thing.
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