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Kelly Willis

What I Deserve

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By Michael Norman  

What Kelly Willis deserves is a major label contract, a platinum-selling record and a rapt audience at the Grand Ole Opry. Instead, she'll have to settle for knowing that her roots-rock is often more genuine, more heartfelt and more truly country than much of what Nashville sells today.

On her Rykodisc debut, What I Deserve, the Austin-based performer recruits some of alternative country's most inspired sidemen, including John Leventhal (Shawn Colvin, Rosanne Cash) and Gary Louris (The Jayhawks, Golden Smog), to add color and texture to her classic, lonesome sound.  Whether singing her own tunes or interpreting those of Nick Drake, Paul Westerberg or Paul Kelly, this artist knows how to use her pipes to their fullest effect and, just as importantly, knows when to lay back. 

The result is an album that blends retro twang with an amped-up blast of folk-rock, all delivered without the slightest hint of irony.

Michael Norman is Entertainment Editor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer.