I don’t know Patty Loveless and I must say that, even after watching Country Music, I don’t really know much mainstream country music from this era. I’m familiar with country pop and what I like to call “arena country” (i.e. rock-influenced equivalent of country pop) but I’m not really familiar with what was the more traditional mainstream when Garth Brooks and Shania Twain were, um, modernizing things. But I assume it would sound like this.
The songs are all covers, including a classic Richard Thompson song (that was introduced to country audiences in the ’80s, apparently) but mostly consists of songs that Loveless appears to be the first person to champion. (There is a song George Jones made popular, too.) Country’s a weird genre in which songwriter and singer are often still so separate – something that pop rock did more of pre Beatles but which is far less common now. (I don’t know enough about 21st century country to know if that’s changed at all.) The song quality is pretty good, in terms of catchiness. And it covers the usual country topics.
Loveless has a great voice, with enough country twang that you won’t mistake her for any other kind of singer. I don’t find her so captivating that I need to hear other albums of hers, but she’s a good singer.
The arrangements are country enough to be recognizable (regardless of her voice) with fiddle, steel guitar and a little mandolin but are far more contemporary and produced for the kind of country I like. I read that Loveless was originally associated with the neo-tradtiionalists but either that had died out by this point or neo-traditionalism is pretty “neo,” if you know what I mean. (I remember listening to Guitar Town the first time and thinking “If this was considered “traditional” in the ’80s, what was mainstream?) At the end of the day, it’s just not a sound I like. And given that alt country existed contemporaneously to this, I’ll take that aesthetic over this one any day of the week.
But it’s well done as a recording, the songs are catchy enough and Loveless is a fine country singer. It’s not for me, but it’s certainly more worth listening to than some other “country” music of the day.