Karen Collins

The Washington Post
"Tail Light Blues" Friday, April 20, 2007

“ KAREN COLLINS, DAUGHTER of a southwest Virginia coal miner, would need to do two things to conceal her hardscrabble country roots: Keep her mouth shut and put down her pen.

Fortunately, Collins, the singer and the songwriter, is free to display the full range of her talents on "Tail Light Blues," an album that doesn't strive for rootsy charm so much as radiate it. For starters, there is Collins's highly distinctive voice; bright, piercing and charged with girlish zest, it adds plenty of tang to the twangy guitar sounds orchestrating this collection of honky-tonk tales. A case in point is a suitably raucous reprise of the classic George Jones-Melba Montgomery duet "Feudin' and Fightin'."

More often, though, Collins sings her own songs, and she seldom sounds better than when showing an ex-lover the door on "Highway of Love" and "Rumors." Veteran pedal steel guitarist and Ernest Tubb sideman Buddy Charleton, who embroiders the album's title cut with blue tones, is quoted in the liner notes as saying that he wishes Tubb had lived to hear Collins's songs. It's not hard to understand why, since Collins can convince you that Tubb and his ilk are still dominating the country music charts.

Colorfully augmenting Collins's voice, fiddles and rhythm guitar in the Backroads Band are bassist-vocalist Geff King, drummer Rob Howe and multi-instrumentalist Ira Gitlin, who shines brightest on electric, twang-laden lead guitar. ” -- Mike Joyce