Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Kelly Willis

  • Well Travelled Love [MCA, 1990] **
  • Bang Bang [MCA, 1991] B+
  • Kelly Willis [MCA, 1993] B+
  • Fading Fast [A&M, 1996] ***
  • What I Deserve [Rykodisc, 1999] B+
  • Easy [Rykodisc, 2002] Choice Cuts
  • Translated From Love [Rykodisc, 2007] Dud

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Well Travelled Love [MCA, 1990]
in love with her own voice, which deserves it, and him for listening, which is a mistake ("My Heart's in Trouble Tonight," "River of Love") **

Bang Bang [MCA, 1991]
Up till the Joe Ely conceit she goes out on, this 22-year-old doesn't get a single lyric worthy of her lusty-voiced appetite for decent love. She claims she'll wrap her pipes around any original her drummer husband hands her, but since the five on the debut are down to two here, there's reason to hope that next time her Nashville handlers will put her in touch with an actual female songwriter. Would Lucinda Williams be asking too much? B+

Kelly Willis [MCA, 1993]
Willis loves singing like George Jones loves singing, like Rosanne Cash loves singing, and once a fella notices how hard she tries and how strong she feels, he'll want to hug and kiss her till that smile is back on her pretty little face. But though the tunes are her solidest yet, Don Was's Billy Bremner guitar and Jellyfish harmonies don't set them off any more clearly than Tony Brown's neoclassical taste did. That's mostly because Willis's idea of a good lyric is a simple lyric. No wordplay, no narrative, no trenchant details--just the musical statement, alive and direct. OK, honey, if you say so. But I still think maybe you should join that T-group with K.T. and Mary-Chapin. B+

Fading Fast [A&M, 1996]
at four tracks in three years, she's not gonna pick a title song called "Going Strong" ("Fading Fast," "Aren't I True") ***

What I Deserve [Rykodisc, 1999]
Still has that enormous voice. Still has big-time man problems. Still tries too hard to feel. Will never reveal how scared she is inside. Will never sweep all before her. Still tries to do the right thing. Still sounds better the closer you listen. Still has that enormous voice. B+

Easy [Rykodisc, 2002]
"If I Left You," "Easy (As Falling Apart)" Choice Cuts

Translated From Love [Rykodisc, 2007] Dud

See Also