Patty Loveless' 2001 bluegrass album, Mountain Soul, holds a special place in her heart. Influenced by the music she grew up with in rural Kentucky, the album resonated strongly with the country singer's fans even as it broadened her audience.
Loveless considered it a one-off labor of love. So when Time Life label Saguaro Road said it wanted to do another album with her named Mountain Soul II, she hated the idea at first.
I was kicking at that, she says. I just didn't want people to think that, 'OK, here's another Mountain Soul, she's running with the Mountain Soul thing.'
In the end, though, Loveless decided it wouldn't be such a bad idea after all. Although not strictly a bluegrass album, Mountain Soul II, which is due September 29, retains the rootsy, acoustic charm of its predecessor, which has sold 309,000 copies in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan.
Some of the music does sort of lend itself toward the music that was on 'Mountain Soul,' Loveless says, adding, When I sat around and thought about it, I thought, 'OK, it makes sense.'
Loveless was one of country music's brightest stars of the late '80s and '90s, maintaining a regular presence on the charts with a slew of hits like Timber, I'm Falling in Love, Hurt Me Bad (In a Real Good Way), I Try to Think About Elvis and Halfway Down.
She had recorded acoustic mountain music as early as I'll Never Grow Tired of You on her 1988 album Honky Tonk Angel, but it wasn't until Mountain Soul that the Pikeville, Kentucky, native devoted an entire album to bluegrass.
FOCUS ON TRADITION
Since then, she and her husband, producer Emory Gordy Jr., have steered clear of the pop-country material she flirted with in the late '90s to focus on an appealing, if less commercial, blend of traditional country and acoustic roots music.
Mountain Soul II continues in this vein with an engaging mix of material that includes Harlan Howard's classic Busted, Emmylou Harris' Diamond in My Crown, Barbara Keith's Bramble and the Rose and two Loveless/Gordy originals, one of which, (We Are All) Children of Abraham, is an a cappella spiritual featuring the singer testifying like the Baptist preachers of her youth.
Loveless will play scattered tour dates this fall, mostly in the Southeast, to support Mountain Soul II. The new album will arrive barely a year after the release of her first set for Saguaro Road, Sleepless Nights, a Grammy Award-nominated collection of country standards. As is the case with most of the artists on its roster, Saguaro Road doesn't have a long-term deal with Loveless, but rather works with her on an album-by-album basis.
The label sees two distinct retail opportunities for Mountain Soul II. On one hand, it will reach out to traditional country music fans through Wal-Mart, direct-response marketing on GAC (the Great American Country cable network) and other outlets.
Separate from that, she has another life, Time Life senior vice president of audio and video retail Mike Jason says. She has a strong NPR-type following as an interpreter of American roots music.
So what's next for Loveless after Mountain Soul II? Might she consider a foray into the blues, a la You Don't Get No More from her 2000 album Strong Heart?
Yeah, she muses. A little more bluesy, a little more rock edge to it. I wouldn't mind doing something like that. You never know. I may surprise you.