Joni Harms (Warner Western)
A real-life cowgirl who grew up on an Oregon ranch, Harms won a Future Farmers of America talent contest at 16 (for playing guitar and singing a song she composed) and at 17 was named Miss Northwest Rodeo Queen. As a singer she has a low, resonant voice that suggests the young Kitty Wells—and sometimes even Lyle Lovett—and if her name sounds familiar, in 1989 she scored a pair of country hits with “I Need a Wife” and “The Only Thing Bluer Than His Eyes.” This vivacious CD, her first major-label release in seven years, represents a comeback of sorts. Harms cowrote all 10 tracks, which range from “Belle Starr,” a story song about the notorious woman outlaw, to the romantic “Blue Montana Moon” and the appropriately liking “Swing.” You obviously don’t have to know a dogie from a doggy to succeed in country music, and there are plenty of urban cowgirls in Nashville. But Harms’s energy, and her ease with Western idioms in language and music, are very obvious assets. This is such a good comeback album, chances are she’ll never need to make another.
Bottom Line: Unbridled success