The Lucky One
Hightone Records, 2000
REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 08/07/2000
Chances are you've never heard of Christy McWilson. Even though she's established herself as a member of The Picketts, a roots rock combo, over the last decade, it's safe to say that she's just not a household name.
Chances are strong that with her first solo album, The Lucky One, things won't change overnight for her. And this, kids, is what we call in the business a "God-Damn Shame".
It's unavoidable, of course. McWilson is too rock and roll for the country world. She has too much twang for the rock circle. And she's too far rooted in both camps to neatly fit into the usually all-encompassing blanket of folk music.
Truth be told, McWilson is a musical gypsy. And as the 12 songs on The Lucky One prove, she's capable in every single one of the fields she touches. A musical gypsy? Yes... thank God.
McWilson's vocal prowess is astounding. One minute, she's gently chiding herself and the supposedly gifted life she lives on the title track (most telling line: "Oh, happiness ain't nothing but a misery to me"), the next minute she's belting out numbers like "Cryin' Out Loud" and "Little Red Hen" with incredible power and finesse.
As talented a songwriter as she is a singer, McWilson dares to bury several levels of meaning into such songs which can be simply enjoyed right out of the package. Songs like "Weight Of The World," "Wishin'" and "Someday" all sound pleasant stright off the CD, but if you sit down and listen to the lyrics (or, better yet, read the liner notes, since it's too easy to become captivated by the songs themselves), you'll discover a lot of hidden pain in those words, allowing the songs to take on whole new meanings.
Of course, having such guest artists as Syd Straw, Dave Alvin (who we'll hear from real soon), Mike Mills and Peter Buck (both from R.E.M.) doesn't hurt things. But what may be the greatest compliment to McWilson is that unless you're paying attention to the liner notes, their performances blend right in with the band. This is the true sign of greatness: an artist superseding the guest musicians.
The Lucky One is an album that should raise McWilson's level of popularity to dizzying heights, if there were any justice in this world. Instead, though, of dealing with superstardom, McWilson may have to rely on people's experiences with this disc and positive word-of-mouth to get her message out there. This is me doing my part: go out, buy this CD, and tell your friends to go buy their own copies. You won't regret it.