Album Review: Lorrie Morgan - "Letting Go...Slow"/"A Picture Of Me: Greatest Hits & More"

With two new albums — her first solo efforts in over 6 years — country icon has returned to the charts and airwaves with passionate “Letting Go…Slow” and “A Picture Of Me: Greatest Hits & More.”

Lorrie Morgan’s most-recent project was the duets projects Dos Divas with Pam Tillis (as “Grits and Glamour). That album was released 3 years ago but Lorrie’s previous project of material, A Moment In Time, released over 6 years ago. Rather than sit idle or just tour, Lorrie has partnered with two record labels for two different projects. The first one released (in February 2016) was Letting Go…Slow. That album featured 12 new songs produced by longtime friend and collaborator Richard Landis for the Shanachie label while A Picture Of Me: Greatest Hits & More was released in March of 2016 via the Cleopatra Records’ Goldenlane label, the same label which is home to top country talent like Collin Raye, The Oak Ridge Boys, TG Sheppard and Little Texas, among others.

Letting Go…Slow features a handful of of choice covers and new songs over the course of the twelve tracks and they all suit Morgan’s elegant alto voice quite nicely. Opener “Strange,” a classic song from Patsy Cline, sets the tone for Letting Go…Slow and is followed up by a smart cover of Bobby Gentry’s “Ode To Billy Joe.” That tone is followed throughout the rest of the choice covers including Earl Thomas Conley’s “What I’d Say”,” Larry Gatlin’s “I’ve Done Enough Dying Today,” Vern Gosdin’s “Is It Raining In Your House” and Bob Dylan’s “Lay Lady Lay.” The latter song is an interesting choice and as with most anything Lorrie does these days, it’s a strong choice. As for the new songs on the project, one of them, “Something About Trains,” actually is a ‘cover’ as a Nashville-based artist named Jessica Campbell recorded the song on one of her projects a couple of years back. Meanwhile, “Slow” (written by Lorrie’s daughter in law Ashlee Hewitt and Lonestar’s Dean Sams) is a powerful ballad while “Spilt Milk” (another ‘new cover’) finds Lorrie getting torch-y and just a slight bit jazzy. The best ‘new songs’ on the record, “Jesus & Hairspray” and “Lonely Whiskey” are not out of the realm of what Kacey Musgraves and Brandy Clark do these days.

As for A Picture Of Me: Greatest Hits & More, Lorrie sounds great and it’s always fun to hear an artist revisit the songs that turned them into stars, especially when they’ve had slight tweaks to the way they perform the songs after years of recording them and on that front, this record succeeds. But I can’t help but think the track production here should’ve not been so liberal with removing of fiddle or steel guitars. Yes, Lorrie’s sound has evolved through the years on these songs but that doesn’t mean you have to abandon the obvious hallmarks of the melodies with the tracks. It really bogs down the “Greatest Hits” part of the project and I can’t but help feel as if it was done on the cheap in some way (only producer and location are mentioned).

Contrast those tracks with the “and More” portion of the album (8 tracks) is mostly cover tunes, including some takes on songs from Keith Whitley’s songbook (“Hopelessly Yours,” “I Went Crazy For A While” and “Wherever You Are Tonight.” This half of the project, while different, is on par with Letting Go…Slow and a strong showcase for Lorrie Morgan’s talent. Half of those tracks were also created the same way as the hits but because we aren't familiar with Lorrie's take on the classic songs (and one new self-penned track), they feel just fine and are performed admirably by all concerned.

Final verdict: Fans of Lorrie Morgan should take a shine to both records for all of the great new content but should also treat the 8 re-recorded “Greatest Hits” as bonus tracks around the iconic covers. Then again, if they're longtime fans, they already have those songs and the reason to buy A Picture Of Me: Greatest Hits & More is to get Lorrie's take on seven iconic songs and her new song "Mirror Mirror."