Album + Compilation

20th Century Masters: The Millennium Collection: The Best of Kitty WellsKitty WellsCD12


part of:20th Century Masters: The Millennium Collection (release groups) (order: 6)

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Kitty Wells - The Collection is essential for any country music lover given the Queen of Country's seminal influence on the genre. Not only was she the first female country artist to sell a million records, she was also the first female to reach Number 1 in the country charts. No mean feat in 1952 when her raw gutsy release ''It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels'' was banned by NBC Radio and deemed too suggestive by the Grand Ol Opry.

Wells' first hit is a natural opener on this welcome compilation while her equally controversial follow-up, ''Paying For The Back Street Affair'' sustains the tone of grit, grief and good girls all gone wrong. With ''Release Me'' the collection confirms its pace through the tinkling honky tonk piano. Englebert Humperdinck eat your heart out! ''Thou Shalt Not Steal'' is another classic crooner composed by a 17 year old Don Everly in 1954.

There's something simple yet powerfully plaintive about Kitty Well's style of singing that lifts these love songs above the sentimental yearning all too common in country. It also explains why a singer with the substance of Emmylou Harris has revived Kitty's oeuvre, notably the down-home tune, ''Making Believe''.

And Kitty Wells is the quintessential down-home country lady. Born Ellen Muriel Deason in 1919, she toured her home town of Nashville throughout her teens with her sisters and cousin as The Deason Sisters. But it was her partnership with Johnny Wright, another legend and her husband of 66 years which consolidated Kitty's multiple award-winning country music career so amply reflected on this CD.

What's curious is how Wells sings so authentically of infidelity and heartache on songs like Harlan Howard's ''Mommy ForA Day'' and ''Will Your Lawyer Talk To God'' given her own solid family setting. Now in their eighties, the couple continue to entertain along with their children and grandchildren.

If you fancy a soothing saunter into the heart of country, then put this collection on, clear back the carpet, uncork your favourite brew and haul your sweetheart across the floor for a tender two-step. Kitty Wells will keep you waltzing 'til dawn.