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CD REVIEW: Joni Compretta - Out of Mississippi
By Chip Withrow - 08/26/2006 - 01:03 PM EDT

Artist: Joni Compretta
Album: Out of Mississippi
CD Review: The first time I listened to this CD, I was tempted to dismiss it. It seemed like yet another attempt at country star-making - you know, someone else calling the shots, choosing the songs, grooming yet another pretty face as a product and not a performer.
But I was wrong. (As my wife just said: "Changing your opinion. A sign of intelligence.")
First of all, Jodi Compretta can sing. Listen to "Long and Restless Nights," one of my favorite cuts on Out of Mississippi. She has the vocal presence of someone like Loretta Lynn, dramatic and authoritative, and the song swings. Later in the disc, "Old Flames" works the same way.
These days, some popular country ballads veer too close to pop for my twangy tastes, but "Before You Turn to a Memory" suits me just fine. The band behind her adds some nice, heartbreaking touches of fiddle, mandolin, pedal steel and piano, and Jodi turns in a sultry performance.
The ballad "Even Now" is more typical of what you hear on country radio. "I Love You" also seems to be geared toward country-crossover appeal, but Jodi kills on the vocal, and it is soul- and doo wop-influenced enough to be interesting.
I was wary of her cover of the old Dobie Gillis hit, "Drift Away." Too obvious a choice, I thought. (Certainly I was turned off because Uncle Kracker's bombastic version of a few years back annoyed me.) But Jodi's is countrified with bouncy fiddle, and in the right hands you can't deny it's a great song.
Jodi can rock, too, "Baby Run That By Me One More Time" is peppy. I'd like to hear more of a snarl to the vocal on this one. But I'm not the producer, and Lonnie Ratliff seems to know what he's doing when it comes to getting Jodi ready for bigger things.
"Waitin' For Your Love To Come Around" has more swagger, like a good Bonnie Raitt tune. "The night goes down harder than a shot of whiskey" is a great line, too. "That's What Rock and Roll Means To Me" is a bit too obvious lyrically, but it's one of those songs that would appeal to classic rock fans who make the switch to country.
The album closes on a pretty note with "When It Finally Happens." It starts with Jodi's voice and guitar, and then the fiddle comes in. I'd love to hear a version with just those three instruments.
I don't dig the idea of country industry execs crafting a willing performer to sound like what's popular at the moment. I'd like to see Jodi Compretta succeed, and I'd like to see her avoid that trap. Out of Mississippi makes her sound like she's gutsy enough to do that.

www.jodicompretta.com


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