My Kind of Country

Country music from a fan's point of view since 2008

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Album Review: Holly Dunn – ‘Life, Love And All The Stages’

Her stint at Warner Bros. now over, Holly Dunn once again found herself the flagship artist at a fledgling label when she signed with the newly-formed Nashville division of Chicago-based River North Records. In order to regain her lost commercial momentum, she needed to really knock one out of the park, but unfortunately, 1995’s Life, Love And All The Stages is not the home run she needed.

hollydunnlifeloveFor the first time since 1987’s Cornerstone, her brother Chris Waters was not on board as a co-producer, although he continued to be Holly’s songwriting partner and had a hand in writing nine of the album’s ten tracks, most of them with Holly and their usual collaborator Tom Shapiro. Unfortunately, this time around the songwriting team didn’t seem to have a lot to say, despite the three-year gap since Holly’s previous album. Little about the album’s ten songs is compelling or memorable and the project could have benefited greatly by including some tunes from outside songwriters. Replacing Waters as Holly’s co-producer was Joe Thomas. The album is tastefully produced and Holly’s voice is in good form, but the material is not particularly exciting. It is more contemporary-sounding than most of Holly’s previous work, reflecting country music’s shift away from traditional sounds that began in the mid-nineties.

Only one of the album’s singles, “I Am Who I Am”, actually charted. It reached #56, outperforming most of the singles from Holly’s previous effort Getting It Dunn. “Cowboys Are My Weakness” — a Dunn/Shapiro/Waters composition and not the same song that Trisha Yearwood recorded more than a decade later — and “It’s Not About Blame” were the album’s two non-charting singles. These three tracks are the album’s strongest, so River North appears to have made the correct choices in selecting singles, but they were not strong enough to gain any traction at radio. I enjoyed “Rock-a-Billy”, which Holly wrote by herself, although it is a bit fluffy in the lyrics department.

Overall, Life, Love And All The Stages is a pleasant-sounding album, but one that one tends to play in the background while doing other things and not remember much about afterwards. It is little more than a footnote in the Dunn discography. Cheap used copies are still available, and though the album is not essential listening, it is certainly worth the small outlay of cash required to obtain it.

Grade: B-