Sweetheart of the Valley
It has been a long wait (eight years) since country singer/songwriter Lori Yates last album, the award-winning The Book of Minerva, but her return with new album Sweetheart of the Valley is very welcome. Unlike so many assembly-line fabricated female (and male) country singers, she's the real deal, and the superbly written and sung all-original songs here make this collection her best work yet. The disc reunites her with old comrades Hey Stella!, an ace combo comprising Blue Rodeo's Bazil Donovan, David Baxter and Michelle Josef, with steel player Steve Wood a valuable addition. They add musical power and finesse to oft-sad songs delivered via a pure and passionate voice, one that'll tug solidly on those heartstrings. A Juno nominee back in the '90s, Yates first made a mark on the Toronto mid '80s roots/cowpunk scene with Rang Tango, and it's gratifying to see a veteran artist continue to evolve.
This scribe caught the charming performer's recent (and enthusiastically-received) sold-out release party in Hamilton. She has two upcoming Toronto gigs, at The Dakota on Dec. 4 and the Full Bawdy Loft (290 Carlaw St) on Dec. 5.