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k.d. lang

Shadowland

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By Bill DeMain  

Twenty-five years after Patsy Cline died, her spirit returned to Nashville in the form of a big-boned vegetarian Canadian singer named Kathryn Dawn Lang.

With a mission to pay tribute to her idol, k.d. surrounded herself with old guard country legends, including producer Owen Bradley, Loretta Lynn, Brenda Lee and Kitty Wells, plus a session band of forgotten Music Row all-stars. She shunned the new digital technology of the time and recorded live to analog tape, not only recapturing the magic of Cline’s great records, but making one of the best country albums of the ‘80s.

After starting with the languid Chris Isaak-penned opener “Western Stars,” k.d. tips her hat to country songwriters, from Roger Miller (“Lock, Stock and Teardrops”) to Harlan Howard (“I’m Down To My Last Cigarette”) to Cindy Walker (“Sugar Moon”). As Cline often did, she also transforms a few jazz standards (“Black Coffee” and “I Wish I Didn’t Love You”) into weepy honky-tonk ballads. The success of this audacious undertaking all hinged on one factor - lang’s voice. And she delivers in octave-spanning, skylark-soaring spades.

As producer Bradley says in the album notes: “As a singer, k.d. is anything she wants to be . . . a rare talent with a great voice and an imagination to go along with it.”

Musician and journalist Bill DeMain writes frequently about music. His work has appeared in numerous publications including Entertainment Weekly, MOJO, and Musician.