Kelly Willis returns after five years with the much-anticipated Translated From Love. Produced by long-time collaborator Chuck Prophet, Translated From Love is Willis' most sonically adventurous album to date. Prophet says of Willis, "She's one of those singers who can make a track come alive. She's got that kind of charisma."
Translated From Love gives nods to five decades of rock, pop and country with `60s girl group drum sounds one minute and strings-drenched C&W angst the next. Its 12 tracks are comprised of originals, intriguing and unexpected covers (including a vintage Vox organ-fueled take on Iggy Pop's "Success" and Adam Green's retro-cool "Teddy Boys") plus collaborations with Prophet, acclaimed singer-songwriter Jules Shear and Kelly's husband, ace country songwriter Bruce Robison.
With her vocal twang and timbre, Kelly Willis will never sound anything but country. Even so, she's long been adventurous in her choice of material, and her first release in five years is her most expansive to date, as collaborations with producer/guitarist Chuck Prophet and songwriter Jules Shear (who also provides backing vocals) bring a freshness to her signature style. Half of these cuts could have fit on a previous Willis album; the other half wouldn't have fit on any of them--yet somehow they all fit together. The biggest surprise is a cover of Iggy Pop's "Success," with an arrangement that channels the Sir Douglas Quintet's Vox keyboards (with the Gourds contributing to the call-and-response). Other twists include the propulsive pop lilt of "Nobody Wants to Go to the Moon Anymore," the touch of Phil Spector girl-group grandeur in "Don't Know Why," the Chuck Berry guitar and gender reversal of "Teddy Boys," and the hint of Van Morrison's "Brown-Eyed Girl" in "The More That I'm Around You." With results that transcend category, Willis sounds like an artist renewed. --Don McLeese