Trisha Yearwood
Thinkin' About You

And you won't feel like a dweeb thinkin' about her, either. Trisha Yearwood is a rare find--she's inoffensive to both new "young country" fans and old holdout traditionalists. Trish and her producer have picked an intelligent, well-written batch of tunes with no self-congratulatory "thank God I'm a country girl" anthems to be found anywhere. "I've seen the country and I've been to town," she coos on "The Restless Kind," but never reveals a divisive preference for either.

The same goes for the arrangements, which strike a tasty balance between country and adult contemporary production values. The title track could pass for Anita Baker with a twang while "Those Words We Said" sounds like Chris Isaak might after a few female hormone injections. On the final cut, Yearwood proves she can deliver the goods on a country weepy like "Till I Get It Right," which sports an understated arrangement that would make Billy Sherrill proud.--Serene Dominic

Twisted Sister
Live at Hammersmith
(CMC International)

Time doesn't render everything old "historically relevant." Twisted Sister was already ten years behind the times when this attempt to out-Kiss Kiss Alive! was recorded in '84. Eschewing Dee Snider's impressive Robin Zander impersonations, this band displayed rudimentary heavy-metal skills that would make even the touring Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles blush. An even bigger liability than Sister's "run amok with mommy's compact case" look was Snider's weak and derivative songwriting. Twisted's biggest (and only) hit "We're Not Gonna Take It" took its title from Tommy's finale and its melody from "O Come All Ye Faithful"! Just what you'd expect from a guy whose first onstage performance was in a Catholic high school production of Godspell. But if you took all the songs outta this double set and left in just Snider's endless, in-between-song banter, you'd have a great "talking only" album that would give even the ludicrous Having Fun on Stage With Elvis a run for its money. Snider's a laff riot, constantly turning up the house lights and getting this stiff British audience to repeat after him silly stuff like "I am a sick motherfucker!" In retrospect, the key to the band's live appeal was this--it treats a stupid gig at a Long Island rock club like it's the Hammersmith Odeon, and vice versa. "So this is a Hammersmith Odeon? Pretty fuckin' big," marvels Snider, "not like that shithole Marquee Club we played in two years ago!" And he's nothing if not self-deprecating: "Not bad for a buncha assholes from New York!" This album even has a cameo appearance by Motrhead's Lemmy, who strides onstage to say just three words: "Twisted fuckin' Sister!!" That, my friends, says it all.--Serene Dominic

Tim McGraw
Not a Moment Too Soon

The The
Hanky Panky
(550 Music/Epic)

Both of these albums are enough to keep poor old Hank Williams spinning in his grave like a Tasmanian devil, but for completely different reasons. Everything about Tim McGraw, illegitimate son of Mets great Tug McGraw, feels illegitimate. He wears tuxedo shirts, he doesn't write any of his songs and he's got a passive voice that carries no power, no punch. Even when he launches into the Raiders' "Indian Reservation" in his novelty hit "Indian Outlaw," he never manages more than a whimper. In "Down on the Farm," McGraw pays the old master the obligatory homage ("Got ol' Hank crankin' way up loud"), but--based on the music on this CD--there's no evidence to suggest that McGraw ever actually listened to Williams.

And country doesn't get any stupider than "It Doesn't Get Any Countrier Than This." Here, McGraw describes his intended bride to his mama. She's a "real country girl," he tells her. She goes skinny-dippin', rolls in hay behind the barn and makes hot monkey love until the cows come home--all that's missing is Tim saying, "Heck, she's just like you, Mama!" If only Tim's mama didn't put out for Tug that one time, we wouldn't be in this mess.

Although no one could convey loneliness better than Hank Williams, one doesn't normally associate him with gloom rock. "Honky Tonkin'," the opening track on this The The album of Hank Williams covers, makes a night on the town sound like an eerie mob lynching. Luckily, Matt Johnson manages to remain true to the spirit, if not the sound, of the originals throughout the rest of Hanky Panky. Except for a doo-woppish/David Lynch version of "Your Cheatin' Heart," The The's song selection steers clear of overly familiar Hank classics while unearthing obscure goodies like "My Heart Would Know" and "I Can't Escape From You." When Hank's spoken voice, lifted right off of an old radio show, turns up to close the album, it's not hard to imagine him actually giving this one his blessing from hillbilly heaven. Or wherever the hell he ended up.--Serene Dominic

Tim McGraw is scheduled to perform on Sunday, April 9, at Country Thunder USA Festival in Queen Creek. For details call 966-9920.


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