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Paulette Carlson

It's About Time – 2006 (Polly Girl)

Reviewed by Robert Loy

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CDs by Paulette Carlson

There were two big reasons for the success of Highway 101 in the 1980's: one was some great song-writing, and the other was the one-of-a-kind vocals of Paulette Carlson, giving them a sound that was instantly recognizable and always worthy of attention. Their "Whiskey, If You Were a Woman" and "The Bed You Made For Me" (among others) are truly classics.

Carlson retired in 1996 after a not-particularly successful run as a solo act, and not counting a brief reunion with Highway 101, she hasn't been heard from much of late. She's back now, and the good news is she sounds just as good as ever; the bad news is there aren't any classics on her comeback effort. But that's not to say that this is not an enjoyable album. For one thing, it's refreshing to hear steel guitars and fiddles as lead instruments the way they were before pop conquered country.

Carlson was inspired to write "Thank You, Vets" to honor her brother (who gave his life in Viet Nam) and his comrades-in-arms. And "She Rides For The Brand" looks at the sacrifices soldiers' families are called upon to make. But this is not a theme album, "He's Funny That Way" is a look at long-lasting love, and Carlson pulls off the almost impossible task of rehabilitating that Kenny Rogers chestnut "Twenty Years Ago." Unfortunately, much of this album feels rushed, and the clichés that mar "That Old Glass Case" (about a family heirloom) and "Rejoice for the Moment" (about living life fully) would probably have been eliminated after a couple more drafts.