[5 December 2006]
She may have played a bigger country star in Nashville than she ever became in the actual music industry, but Ronee Blakley’s largely forgotten musical output of the 1970s easily merits reconsideration. On her second album, 1975’s Welcome, Blakley operates at the intersection of country and confessional singer-songwriter methods, to generally potent effect. From the disarming nostalgia of “Idaho Home”, to the understated melodicism of “If I Saw You in the Morning”, and then to the stark piano of the closing title track, whose arrangement complements the lonely desperation of its lyrics, Blakley manages to survey a wide swath of sonic terrain within a fundamentally boilerplate format. Credit producer Jerry Wexler for some of that, but blame him, too, for somehow turning several Muscle Shoals sessions into what sound like dimestore-bought country schmaltz; the intrusive, out-of-place saxophone that sabotages the otherwise powerful “Need a New Sun Rising” offers particular cause for chagrin. Blakley herself isn’t immune from occasional oversinging; “She Lays It on the Line” descends into overwrought bombast with its cries of “I believe in you”. Fortunately, such flaws fail to detract from the album’s main strength, Blakley’s sharp songwriting. Informed by the women’s liberation movement’s demands for personal autonomy, tracks like “Nobody’s Bride” and “Young Man” take assertive, progressive feminist stances; on the latter, Blakley insists a younger lover “understand you’re not the only man I know” before claiming her right to nonetheless “want you in my bed”. Damn right: self-definition, with a nice melody to boot.