|Recording information: Absolute Sound, Nashville, TN; Capitol Recording Studios, Hollywood, CA; Castle Oaks, Calabasas, CA; House Of Blues, Encino, CA; Mantis Studios; OceanWay, Nashville, TN; The House, Nashville, TN; The Village, Los Angeles, CA.
|As concept albums go, LeAnn Rimes' 2011 album Lady & Gentlemen is a good one: a collection of masculine country classics reinterpreted by a female singer. Sometimes, this reinterpretation amounts to little more than swapping a gender -- "The Only Daddy That'll Walk the Line" becomes "The Only Mama That'll Walk the Line," Charlotte in John Anderson's "Swingin'" becomes Charlie -- and some of these songs are standards that have often been sung by either gender ("Help Me Make It Through the Night"), but there are a few songs that do feel slightly different when sung by Rimes, including "A Good Hearted Woman" and "He Stopped Loving Her Today," neither given a gender switch yet changing slightly with the perspective shift. Generally, though, Lady & Gentlemen isn't much more than a good straight-ahead covers album, given grit and tradition from co-producers Vince Gill and Darrell Brown, who give John Conlee's "Rose Colored Glasses" a dusty beer joint kick and Gill's own "When I Call Your Name" a soulful sway, and transform Merle Haggard's "Tonight the Bottle Let Me Down" into a slow, spooky crawl, all moves that more than compensate for the too frenetic take on "Swingin'." Throughout it all, Rimes hits her marks with ease, and the new version of her breakthrough hit "Blue" illustrates just how far she's come -- how she's become a stronger, more nuanced singer over the years. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine