The Portland Phoenix
October 3 - 10, 2002
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* Kelly Willis
If voice alone could make a singer a star, Kelly Willis might be the Mariah Carey of
country music. An Army brat born in Oklahoma and raised in Virginia, she rst attracted
attention in the 1980s leading a rockabilly band called Kelly and the Fireballs ýhat
eventually settled in Austin. As a solo artist, she made three albums for MCA Nashville
(1990–1994) that her fans felt suffered from the unsatisfying tension and compromise
between the airplay demands of the country biz and Austin’s organic rootsiness.
Easy is Willis’s second for Rykodisc, following her modestly successful (120,000
sold) 1999 What I Deserve?, and it reveals her alterna-country credentials to be
mostly a sham. Willis wrote and co-produced many of the ordinary songs on this uneventful
album, and right from the start, on “If I Left You,” she’s an acquiescent, dependent woman.
“I wouldn’t go out on the town,” she sings, and you wonder why the heck not. “Wait Until
Dark,” written with John Levanthal, is about having to hold off on lovemaking till the kids
are asleep; it’s not exactly a new notion to any cohabiting parents, and she doesn’t give
it any urgency. And when Marcia Ball sings “Find Another Fool,” it’s a butt-kicking rebuke
to someone who done her wrong: she tells him to nd another fool. In Willis’s tepid rendition,
it appears that nding another fool is just what Kelly’s going to do.
— Wayne Robins
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