Linda Ronstadt, ‘Duets’ (Rhino)
This excellent collection anticipates Linda Ronstadt’s induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame this week — a happy occasion, to be sure — but it’s hard not to shed a tear, too, as you listen to these 14 glorious, mostly ballad tracks, not just because they’re mostly sad and slow, but because the famous Arizonan’s tangy, robust singing voice has been silenced forever by Parkinson’s.
Drawing on an array of albums — from her Grammy-winning blockbuster, “Heart Like a Wheel” (1976) to her collaboration with Cajun singer Ann Savoy, “Adieu False Heart” 2006) — “Duets” has more gems than a royal torsade.
The harmonies with Savoy on the title track of their collaboration and on the heartbreaking “I Can’t Get Over You” are so tart you can taste them. The old-fashioned country twang of “The New Partner Waltz,” with Carl Jackson, from their album of songs by the Louvin Brothers, and Ronstadt’s classic duet with Emmylou Harris on Hank Williams’ “I Can’t Help It If I’m Still in Love With You” bristle with gravel-road pathos.
Also from Appalachian territory comes an unreleased a cappella jewel, “Pretty Bird,” with Laurie Lewis. In a bouncy Broadway novelty vein is Irving Berlin’s delightful “Sisters,” from Bette Midler’s album for Rosemary Clooney.
James Taylor, anyone? He’s here, too, of course, on the snappy rocker, “I Think It’s Gonna work Out Fine” and so is Frank Sinatra, on the string-swathed romantic closer, “Moonlight in Vermont.”
The collaborations with Aaron Neville and James Ingram are schmaltzy, but not enough to spoil this brace of songs by one of the greatest singers America has ever produced.
Other new releases
Carter Girl, “Carlene Carter” (Rounder)
Martina McBride, “Everlasting” (Alliance Ent Special)
Wilco Johnson and Roger Daltrey, “Going Back Home” (Hip-O)