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Honky Tonk Angels

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In the mid-’60s, when she as still an unknown, the most buxom member of this trio made a record called Dolly Parton Sings Country Oldies, which might as well have been Kitty Wells album. Almost 30 years later, coproducer Parton returns to that ultratraditional sound with Loretta Lynn and Tammy Wynette on Honky Tonk Angels (Columbia), creating a choir of angels from the voices that defined the third generation of female country singers, after Wells and Patsy Cline. Nearly everything about this album, including its production, has a ’50s and ’60s feel to it. Wells herself drops by for a reprise of “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels,” and there’s a lyrically updated version of “I Dreamed of Hillbilly Heaven,” a hit from 1955, which Parton leads in a cornpone but winningly campy recitation. Some of the material is so hoary that only the magnificent blend of voices — Parton’s angelic stridency, Lynn’s plaintive urgency, and Wynette’s relaxed sensuality — rescues it from the mothballs. Until, that is, we come to a 1960 recording of Cline singing “Lovesick Blues,” on which the trio serve as mere back-up babes. Hokey? Only the coolest cut of all. B

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