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Christy McWilson

The Lucky One – 2000 (HighTone)

Reviewed by Michael Berick

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CDs by Christy McWilson

Something like Cheri Knight's post-Blood Oranges solo work, Christy McWilson's first album following her Picketts' stint is both a welcome arrival and a pleasing surprise. McWilson certainly rises to the challenge of the solo spotlight. This is a potent pack of rootsy country rock filled with gems like the bittersweet Lucinda Williams-esque title track, the feisty honk tonkin' "Cryin' Out Loud" and the punchy twang of "Little Red Hen."

Maybe it's because McWilson sings all leads (unlike on Picketts' albums), but her singing seems dynamic here. Likewise, her writing projects a more personal feel, with lyrics often dealing with the struggles to be resilient in the face of life's circumstances.

Obviously helping matters too is Dave Alvin's crackerjack production. Aided by a virtual army of all-stars (including REM's Peter Buck and Mike Mills, Old 97's Rhett Miller and Alvin vets Chris Gaffney, Rick Shea and Greg Leisz), Alvin has fashioned McWilson with crisp arrangements occasionally dressed up with some well-chosen adornments (like the Tex-Mex flavored "Today Is Yesterday's Tomorrows"). This is an album that sounds good on first listen and gets stronger thereafter.