Make no mistake--Grey DeLisle loves the hell out of Dolly Parton, and as female country artists go, it's hard to find a better model to follow. Like Parton, DeLisle has a voice as pure and fragile as a mountain stream, and her story-based songs are equal parts lovin', lustin' and worshipin'. On Iron Flowers, DeLisle branches out stylistically from the Carter Family folk of last year's The Graceful Ghost with varying degrees of success. The album opens with a surprisingly successful country-folk take on Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody," but when DeLisle tries her hand at classic rock on "Right Now" and "Blueheart," her vocals veer toward overwrought, as if she thought singing through clenched teeth might make these half-baked songs seem more substantial. Elsewhere, she fares much better, from the desert-flavored honky-tonk of "Joanna" to the condemned man's lament "Sweet Little Bluebird." Producer Marvin Etzioni adds some nice mandolin to the proceedings, but the annoying drone in the background of "Iron Flowers" almost ruins an otherwise lovely song. Not every song works, but DeLisle's willingness to experiment is refreshing, and when the last verse of the mandolin-spiked "The Bloody Bucket" revs up like an engine fueled on moonshine, any missteps are quickly forgiven.
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