After nearly two decades as a singer in various Seattle-area pop and roots rock bands, Christy McWilson finally released her solo debut, The Lucky One, in 2000. McWilson first recorded in the early '80s as one-third of the girl group pastiche the Dynette Set, who released a few singles and compilation tracks in the first half of the decade, including "Seed of Love," a standout on the 1984 Rhino female-focused new wave compilation The Girls Can't Help It. That song was co-written and produced by Scott McCaughey of the Young Fresh Fellows, who later became McWilson's husband.
After the demise of the Dynette Set, McWilson played around Seattle in various short-lived groups while adding backing vocals to various Young Fresh Fellows albums (the Fellows' college radio hit "Amy Grant" particularly benefited from McWilson's sassy vocals). In 1990, McWilson helped form the Picketts, who released three albums - Paper Doll, The Wicked Picketts, and Euphonium -- over the course of the '90s. As the Picketts disbanded, more out of sloth than acrimony, longtime fan Dave Alvin approached McWilson with an offer to produce her first solo album, made up of her originals (many concerning her lifelong strle with a bipolar disorder) and a heartfelt, lovely cover of Brian Wilson's "Til I Die." The album, The Lucky One, was recorded with a core band that included Alvin, Peter Buck, and Rob Shea on guitars; Bob Glaub and Walter Singleman on bass; and Don Heffington on drums. It also features guest appearances by Syd Straw, the Old 97s' Rhett Miller, and R.E.M.'s Mike Mills. Two years later, she called on many of the same musicians to help her put together her second solo album, Bed of Roses.
2000 - The Lucky One
This disc sure may catch a listener off guard with its wonderful songwriting (ten of 11 are written by Christy McWilson) and hard hitting instrumental work. You may have never heard of McWilson before, nor heard any buzz about her. But one first listen of the CD, you will put the disc in your changer and instantly be impacted by the country sounding "The Lucky One," which startles with it's beautiful clear soaring voice and a subtle rocking beat. This is followed by the relentless "Little Red Hen," with pounding drum work of Don Heffington relentlessly pushing it along. The disc continues to surprise and delight with its changing rhythms, the solid and tight band closely following the leads of McWilson's plaintive voice that reflects the emotion of the lyrics. This is an excellent band that stays with her with every twist; Rick Shea does his usual outstanding job on a variety of instruments, as do Peter Buck and Greg Leisz. The accordion work of Chris Gaffney adds a subtle undercurrent to the sound. Then congratulations must go to Dave Alvin and the production work he did here, keeping the whole lot vibrant and alive. You will certainly look forward to a lot more from this roots rocker. - allmusic.com
TRACKS: 01. The Lucky One 02. Little Red Hen 03. Ship Song 04. Someday 05. Weight of the World 06. Wishin' 07. 'Til I Die 08. Apple Doll 09. Today Is Yesterday's Tomorrow 10. Eloda 11. Fly Away 12. Cryin' Out Loud
2002 - Bed Of Roses
Christy McWilson's second solo album employs the same producer (labelmate Dave Alvin) and musicians as its predecessor. It also displays the same strengths and weaknesses. On the plus side, she has a strong and polished voice, redolent of artists like Linda Ronstadt and Highway 101's Paulette Carlson. At her best, such as on the accordion-spiced "The Serpentine River," her lyrics and melodies can be quite compelling. But McWilson blazes no new trails; there's little about her delivery, style, or material to set her apart from the crowd. The strongest tracks here are the two well-chosen covers - Jesse Colin Young's "Darkness, Darkness" and Moby Grape's achingly sad "8:05," which is performed as a duet with the deep-voiced Alvin. The rest is spirited and likable, but also a bit too reminiscent of other mainstream country-rock acts. - allmusic.com
TRACKS: 01. Life's Little Enormities 02. Lila Jean 03. The Serpentine River 04. True Believer 05. 8:05 06. Shooting Fish In A Barrel 07. Darkness, Darkness 08. Sheep Song 09. Bed Of Roses 10. Not A Day Goes By 11. Can't Stop A Train 12. Tightrope
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