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Wynonna & the Big Noise

Wynonna & the Big Noise – 2016 (Curb)

Reviewed by Sam Gazdziak

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Once a staple of the country music airwaves, Wynonna has spent much of the last decade working on other projects (acting, writing, compilation albums and "Dancing with the Stars"), not to mention dealing with family emergencies - her husband Cactus Moser was involved in a serious motorcycle accident in 2012. "Wynonna & The Big Noise," her first album since 2009, puts Wynonna back behind the microphone and Moser back behind his drum kit, and it's a welcome return for them both.

Wynonna has always has more natural swagger in a lock of flaming red hair than most other singers do in their entire body. It shouldn't come as a surprise, then, that the album gives her plenty of opportunities to snarl and strut her way through blues rockers like "Ain't No Thing" and "Cool Ya." There may have been a seven-year layoff between albums, but Wynonna's voice hasn't lost any of its power. That being said, one of the highlights is the quiet, reflective "Things That I Lean On," written by Mark D. Sanders and Travis Meadows. Wynonna delivers a beautiful, understated vocal performance, along with guest Jason Isbell.

"Wynonna & The Big Noise" bounces between a few genres. "Jesus and a Jukebox" is the closest thing to traditional country and wouldn't have sounded out of place on a Judds album. "Staying in Love," on the other hand, was written by R&B artist Raphael Saadiq and has a classic Motown vibe. Ace songwriters like Julie Miller, Kevin Welch, Chris Stapleton and John Scott Sherrill supplied the songs, and Wynonna does a masterful job of interpreting them.

From R&B to traditional country to blues and pop, Wynonna & The Big Noise always hit just the right notes. It's fitting that the album is credited to the whole band, as the Big Noise (Moser on drums, Justin Weaver on guitars, Dow Tomlin on bass and Peter King on keyboards) proves to be as adept on a traditional country number as they are on a blues rocker. It takes a big band to keep up with a vocal powerhouse like Wynonna, and The Big Noise are up to the challenge.