Kristy Cox - No Headlights
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No Headlights (Mountain Fever, 2020)

Kristy Cox

Reviewed by John Lupton

American country music in all its forms has long been popular in Australia, and there have been a number of artists from Down Under who have gained an audience among country fans in the US. More than a few of us of a certain age have a few old Slim Dusty LPs tucked away on our shelves that we still spin, and more recent imports like Keith Urban and Kasey Chambers have devoted followings on this side of the globe. After achieving renown as the "Queen of Australian Bluegrass," Kristy Cox has taken up the challenge of Nashville, and it takes only a glance at the credits on her new release to see that she's been eagerly accepted and embraced in Music City.

The album is produced by legendary gospel artist Jerry Salley (who also contributes backup vocals and shares writer credits on six of the 10 tracks) and features guest appearances that include Tammy Rogers (The SteelDrivers), Donna Ulisse and fellow Aussie Tommy Emmanuel.

Cox herself shares writer credits on four songs (and they are all songs - no instrumentals), but it's her voice that takes center stage throughout, clear and strong, a little toward the alto side, and with a nice edge. The material covers a wide range of moods and tempos, at its most upbeat on "Finger Picking Good," a "name dropping" song that covers a lot of bluegrass history and gives Emmanuel a chance to show why he's just about the most versatile guitar picker on the planet. The opener, "Yesterday's Heartache" garnered Cox a CMAA award back home (Australia's version of the CMAs), and "Train" is a pretty good take on, well, a train song.

Appropriately enough, though, it's the title track that draws the most attention. Co-written by Rogers and Salley along with Liz Hengber, it's a dark tale of a mother's promised retribution against her daughter's abuser - "No Headlights" is her way of saying "you won't see me coming." It's not a murder ballad - yet - but the haunting arrangement and Cox's vocal, with Rogers joining in, give it an almost otherworldly aura of impending mayhem. It's a challenging piece of material, and Cox makes it one of the more intriguing bluegrass tracks to come along in a while, in Australia or America.

CDs by Kristy Cox

No Headlights, 2020 Ricochet, 2018 Part of Me, 2016 Living for the Moment, 2014

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