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Kelly Hogan -- Beneath the Country Underdog (Bloodshot).   Two things: Kelly Hogan is a better singer than you, and it's about time she got out on her own.  There, I got that out of my system.  If I could take one artist out of the Bloodshot stable to start my own record label, Kelly would be my top choice.  Although I don't think her full potential is realized here, it's still one hell of a great record.  It succeeds in scrambling to the outer edge of my top ten list by the sheer, unvarnished beauty of her voice.  Formerly of the Rockateens and the Jody Grind, this Georgia native moved into the mecca of Chicago and sang backup for the likes of Alejandro Escovedo, Neko Case, John Wesley Harding, and probably a dozen others I can't name.  The best material on this record are the well-chosen covers, starting with Willie Nelson's "I Still Can't Believe You're Gone" - the spare accompaniment perfectly suits her rich, reverb-laden delivery.  It aches well.  Also inspired are the Magnetic Fields' "Papa Was a Rodeo" - a simple, delicate beauty - and the Percy Sledge tune "Sudden Stop", which is a soulful, icy burn.  The damn-twangingest tune on the record is her take on Freddie Hart's "Easy Loving" which glides as smoothly as the title suggests it should.  She closes the record with an atmospheric and gorgeous rendition of the Band's "Whispering Pines."  The Pine Valley Cosmonauts provide excellent support for this powerful singer, from whom much is expected from this writer in the future.  Here's looking forward to the next one.  -TRS  Top Ten of 2000 Award Winner. -TRS

Track listing:

1. (It's a Mighty Thin Line) Between Love and Hate
2. I Still Can't Believe You're Gone
3. Mystery
4. I Don't Believe in You
5. Papa Was a Rodeo
6. Easy Loving
7. Wild Mountain Berries
8. Sudden Stop
9. Crackers Rule
10. Gone
11. Whispering Pines

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