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Wynonna proves wonderful

Harborlights, Boston, Aug. 27, 1996

By Jeffrey B. Remz

BOSTON - The huge tractor trailer trucks sitting outside the concert pavilion were emblazoned with the trademark "Wynonna" on the sides.

But this was no ego trip, self-indulgent night out for Wynonna Judd.

Far far from it.

In fact, the 90-minute show by Wy showcased an artist who could do practically no wrong whether in song selection, singing or stage patter.

Judd may not be receiving a ton of airplay on her fine recent disc, "revelations," perhaps more do due to the lack of country content than the quality, but that did not detract from a fine summer outing.

The listeners - 3,900 strong, but about 1,000 short of a full house - probably did not think they were even at a country concert for most of the 90 minutes. Judd focused on the soulful, R&B and gospel styles for a good chunk of the night. Soul and R&B have been her direction in recent years with "revelations" making that even more clear. Of course, R&B and country have common roots.

It was one of those shows where you could tell almost from the get go that this was going to be one strong concert. Judd belted out the mid-tempo"Heaven Help My Heart" with vocal confidence and strength.

The confidence factor has been an ingredient being thrown into the mix in stronger dosages as Wynonna has moved well beyond her past of being one-half of The Judds.

The follow-up "Somebody to Love" found Judd possessing a really soulful voice with the band on target as well. With as many as 12 people on stage, the band kept the music cranking and in step, never overplaying. The cornerstones were guitarists Jon Conlee and Tom Bukovac along with keyboardist Jon Glazer.

Judd reached to the depth of the blues on "What It Takes," which she referred to as her "theme song." No wonder as Judd sang, "I like to make it my own way." A three-piece horn section, including sax player Jim Horn, helped propel the song.

The soul-gospel-R&B groove continued through "I Saw the Light," "A Little Bit of Love," during which Judd stated the obvious "Oh I am truly inspired," "Live With Jesus" and "Tell Me Why."

A backing vocal trio of Kim Fleming, Bob Bailey and Vicki Hampton often added the right touch, ably supporting Judd time and again.

This was a concert that had barely any slow spots or weaknesses. Perhaps the lone misstep was the off-handedness of "That Was Yesterday."

Now, as for the country fans out there, they finally got their chance to hear some when Judd came out with an acoustic guitar and stool to play songs of The Judds. Instead of simply playing a few snippets, Judd played full versions, including, "Had a Dream," "Mama He's Crazy" and "Grandpa (Tell Me 'Bout the Good Old Days)."

This may not be where she's at today musically, but Judd clearly seemed comfortable and happy singing songs that helped spark her career. Other band members joined in around a circle at the fore of the stage, giving intimcacy and warmth.

Judd sprinkled the concert with generally uplifting comments. Prior to launching into "Why Not Me?" Judd said, "The dreams do come true. I'm here to prove that...You got to believe in yourself. You got to wake up every day and say..."

The sentiments may have been simple, but Judd clearly believed in her messages of optimism, respect and love. When Judd talked, the people listened.

Not that this was a heavy show throughout. She asked one fan near the stage to come up and dance during "A Little Bit of Love." The guy apparently loved his 15 minutes of fame and did a crack job, causing Judd to break out in laughter, liking what she saw. Unlike her Black & Wy show at Great Woods a few years ago, she let him down easy.

Judd closed the regular show with Mary-Chapin Carpenter's playful "Girls With Guitars" before shutting down a wonderful evening with "No One Else on Earth."

No matter what the style, Judd, a warm, gritty go-your-own way singer, keeps rolling.

BlackHawk opened the show with an hour-long set showcasing their numerous hits.

The beauty of the trio of lead singer Henry Paul, keyboardist Dave Robbins and guitarist Van Stephenson is their vocal harmonies, something sadly lacking in country today. Their voices combine so well.

The problem is a limited range to the songs. Many stand well enough on their own - "I Sure Can Smell the Rain" and "Just About Right" - but combined, they didn't cut deep.

BlackHawk also seemed to rock too much, at times sounding generic. The uptempo, blazing "Stone By Stone" and "Between Ragged and Wrong" were exceptions.

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