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Patty Loveless leaves crowd happy

Skagit Valley Casino, Bow, Wash., Oct. 22, 2004

By Brian Wahlert

BOW, WA - Patty Loveless was one of the most popular female country singers of the late Eighties and early Nineties with great hits like "Chains," "Timber, I'm Falling in Love" and "I'm That Kind of Girl."

But then in 1997, the gush of top 10 hits stopped just as quickly as it had started. Loveless was still recording and releasing the same type of music she always had, but country radio had turned away and started playing newer artists like Lee Ann Womack and Jo Dee Messina.

Loveless hasn't had a top 10 country hit in 8 years. So what do you do? Play the Grand Ole Opry once in a while and grow old with your husband Emory Gordy Jr., who also happens to be your producer and a famous bass player? Move to Branson and open a theater there? Have your management organize a tribute album, where you can sing alongside today's hot new country singers who count you among their influences?

Loveless didn't do any of these things. She took a few years off from recording new music, and then in 2001, at the height of the "O Brother Where Art Thou" phenomenon, she released a bluegrass album, "Mountain Soul." And then in 2003 she followed up with "On Your Way Home," where she followed the path she always has, of selecting and giving heartfelt performances of standout traditional country songs from Nashville's top writers.

Along with her musical return to her roots, Loveless is also touring some smaller venues than she used to play. On this evening, she was performing two shows at the intimate Pacific Showroom at the Skagit Valley Casino between Seattle and Vancouver.

Loveless came onstage looking and sounding great before a sold-out crowd of 460 people. She played a mix of old favorites and quite a few of her newer songs. Her warm, rich voice is as strong as ever, as evidenced on songs that require a lot of range and vocal power like "Halfway Down."

But she also does a great job with soft and sweet songs like "Lonely Too Long," whose warm vocal and pretty mandolin strumming made it one of the night's highlights.

Another highlight didn't involve Loveless at all - it was an electric guitar number by her lead guitarist, Guthrie Trapp. Loveless "discovered" Trapp when he played Robert's, a small club in Nashville, and she invited him to join her on tour. Trapp accepted, and now in addition to doing an outstanding job of backing up Loveless, he gets his own solo spot during her show. Just 25 years old, Trapp clearly has a bright future ahead of him.

"Trouble With the Truth" makes an interesting live performance because it manages to combine a relatively slow tempo with a driving bass-and-drums beat. The three-part backup vocals from band members Garry Murray, Marcia Ramirez and Deanie Richardson and Loveless' powerful a capella finish garnered it one of the strongest crowd reactions of the night.

Richardson is another fantastic instrumentalist who has played in Loveless' band for nearly a decade. She plays very good mandolin, but even better fiddle. She opened "Nothin' Like the Lonely" with a fantastic fiddle solo. Then Loveless joined in, humming along, and Murray came in on banjo. It was the strongest bluegrass song of the night, and a perfect vehicle to show off both Loveless' vocal talent and Richardson's great fiddle playing.

"On Your Way Home" was yet another highlight, with a gorgeous slow fiddle solo to open it up.

The sound was perfect - the audience could easily understand every line of Loveless' songs, and the mix of instruments, both electric and acoustic, was very good.

But Loveless is a better singer than speaker - some of her banter with the crowd fell flat. When she asked the casino crowd, "Have we got any winners here yet?" nobody answered. "Have we got any hopeful winners?" Again, nothing. Finally someone yelled out, "We're here to see you!"

Another minor criticism of the show was that it was too short - only 75 minutes long. Loveless had the crowd stand up for the closer, "Blame It on Your Heart," and then she came back out to do "On Down the Line" as the encore.

She certainly left the crowd happy, though, if not completely satisfied.

©Country Standard Time • Jeffrey B. Remz, editor & publisher •
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