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Kimmie Rhodes and Willie Nelson

Picture in a Frame – 2003 (Sunbird)

Reviewed by Ken Burke

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CDs by Kimmie Rhodes and Willie Nelson

Teaming with Kimmie Rhodes on "Picture In A Frame" was a smart creative move by Nelson. Not only do he and the Texas songbird share a certain plaintive emotional tone - one that embraces love as if it were already loss - but they write in a similar poignant, somewhat ethereal style. As duet partners, their voices don't always blend perfectly, but achieve a natural balance that sounds dramatically personal and true.

At it's best, the 10-song collaboration is a tender and reflective look at romance. Rhodes brings a sense of pleading sensuality to her compositions "Just One Love," "Love Me Like A Song,"and the sweet reunion implied in "We've Done This Before." Nelson, who provides brilliantly expressive acoustic leads throughout, delivers a vocal performance rife with remorse, eroding stoicism, and poetry. His work on "Valentine," "Till I Gain Control Again" and "I Just Drove By," is satisfyingly bittersweet, while "It Will Always Be" is one of the legendary singer-songwriter's finest love songs ever.

Blessed with a tight, small combo feel accented by acoustic guitars, this is one of Nelson's most satisfying and cohesive projects in years, not to mention a sterling showcase for the underappreciated Rhodes.