WYNONNA JUDD. Wynonna, MCA
Maybe the most anticipated country solo debut ever, Wynonna Judd's self-titled album leaves competitors at the starting gate vocally, even when breaking broader ground than that covered by the pioneering Judds' duo sound.
After the opening track "What It Takes" established a bluesier side, the first single "She is His Only Need" proves Wynonna can handle pop music that's outside her country roots with equal comfort and ease.
Soul-inflected "No One Else on Earth" poses little challenge, either, while the bluegrass-flavored "When I Reach the Place I'm Goin'," featuring mama Naomi Judd's welcome return to sing harmonies, brings it all back home. RODNEY CROWELL. Life is Messy, Columbia
One of Nashville's most intelligent and sensitive singer-songwriters extends himself in this surprise-filled set.
The elementary title track and spiritual "Alone But Not Alone" are unusually deep for country music, so is the self-doubting "I hardly Know How to Be Myself" (co-written with Crowell's ex-wife Rosanne Cash).
The frisky single "Lovin' All Night" and lusty "Let's Make Trouble" (with its sly swipe at male-consciousness trendiness) satisfy the standard lyrical conceits, while "What Kind of Love" (written with Roy Orbison and Will Jennings), is the purely poignant Orbison aided immensely by the Booker T. Jones organ undercurrent and the subservient backing vocals of Linda Ronstadt and Don Henley.