Kristy Cox started as a mountain girl from the South. That is, from the town of Mount Barker in Southern Australia. Since then, she’s joined many outstanding performers from Australia and New Zealand who’ve found success in America and beyond. Her fine new album No Headlights (her sixth overall and second for Mountain Fever) will certainly illuminate her talents for fans both old and new.
Cox obviously has a lovely voice. But her phrasing is also enjoyable and impressive. The song “Train” displays her gift for subtle note-slides that pull the listener further into her performance. She consistently knows when to belt out a lyric or deliver a hushed phrase.
In the title-track (the album’s featured single, co-written by Liz Hengber, Tammy Rogers, and producer Jerry Salley), a domestic abuser is warned that vengeance personified will pull into his driveway when he least expects it. (If I come for you ’neath the blood-red moon / There’ll be no headlights.) Through Cox’s beautiful, but ominous vocal, this modern composition becomes as darkly compelling as any centuries-old backwoods ballad. And her songwriting talents are advantageously displayed. Notable examples are “The One Who Makes Her Cry” co-written with Mr. Salley and Donna Ulisse (who also guests on a harmony vocal) and “Finger Picking Good,” penned with Salley and Bill Whyte, a paean to family-and-friends sessions that made little front porches seem as expansive as the stage of the Grand Ole Opry. Guest musician Tommy Emmanuel plays killer fingerpicking guitar solos on this one, with Aaron McDaris providing a perfect Earl Scruggs-style banjo break. They’re just two of the superb vocalists and instrumentalists here, and like the great song material, too numerous to mention individually.
In a happy irony, No Headlights is a shining album by the radiantly talented Kristy Cox. (Mountain Fever Records, 1177 Alum Ridge Rd. NW, Willis, VA 24380 www.mountainfever.com.)RDS