1. Why Can't He Be You?
2. Healing Hands of Time
3. Beneath Still Waters
4. `Til I Can Make It on My Own
5. Don't Touch Me
6. Today I Started Loving You Again
7. `Til I Get It Right
8. Am I That Easy to Forget?
9. When Two Worlds Collide
10. Nobody Wins
Diane Schuur - Vocals, piano
Steve Gibson - Guitar
Mike Rojas - Wurlitzer piano
Eric Darken - Vibes
Michael Rhodes - Bass
Eddie Bayers - Drums
Carmella Ramsey - Harmony vocals
Kird Whalum - Tenor sax (track 2)
Mark Knopfler - Guitar (track 2)
Steve Buckingham - Guitar (tracks 2, 6)
Alison Krauss - Harmony vocals (track 5)
Larry Carlton - Guitar (track 6)
Vince Gill - Harmony vocal (track 6)
Diane Schuur is a jazz vocalist, so what is she doing singing country songs? Well, Ray Charles set a respectable precedent in 1962 with his album "Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music". Back in 1930, Louis Armstrong recorded Blue Yodel No. 9 with country singer Jimmie Rodgers. And more recently Wynton Marsalis has recorded albums with Willie Nelson. In fact Diane Schuur's first recording was a country song - Dear Mommy and Daddy - performed when she was a teenager.
It had been a long-time ambition of Diane Schuur's to do a country album and she went to Nashville specially to record this one. The CD was recorded in one day (with a second day for overdubs). Diane's producer, Steve Buckingham, said that the only other recording artist he knew who was equally quick was Dolly Parton. The trip to Nashville was well worthwhile, as Diane not only achieves the country-and-western style of emotional storytelling vocals but she retains her jazz qualities, making a potent mix. In the very first song, Hank Cochran's Why Can't He Be You?, she has a sob in her voice to express the yearning in the song's lyrics but she also holds the final "he" for an incredibly long time - an achievement only possible for a singer with real technique.
Willie Nelson's Healing Hands of Time is an archetypal country song, with heart-on-the-sleeve sentiments and touching harmony vocals. But there is also a marvellous jazz solo from tenor-saxist Kirk Whalum. The ending is a characteristic Schuur surprise, with Kirk resuming his sax solo and Diane laughing delightedly at an ingenious piece of syncopation.
Carmella Ramsey's harmony vocals add to the effect of 'Til I Can Make It on My Own, a romantic Tammy Wynette song. Merle Haggard's Today I Started Loving You Again includes some great western-style guitar from guest Larry Carlton (and possibly Steve Buckingham), with Diane echoing the guitar's shakes and phrases, and the guitar reciprocating the compliment.
Diane is passionate yet controlled in Am I That Easy to Forget?, and Roger Miller's When Two Worlds Collide has a typical country song structure with countrified guitar and piano. The singer captures the right note of regretful resignation in Kris Kristofferson's Nobody Wins.
This is a short album - only around 40 minutes - and the listener is left wanting more of such sublime music. Diane Schuur is undoubtedly one of the supreme modern jazz singers, with an instantly recognisable quality in her voice and an amazing range as well as technical perfection which let you trust that she will treat each song with attentive care. And we shouldn't overlook her ability at accompanying herself on the piano, with simple but effective phrases. If you want to hear a genuine jazz singer, albeit performing country-and-western material, get this album.