Karen Staley (Warner Bros.)
Staley, the best country singer-songwriter you’ve probably never heard of, has built a 15-year Nashville career on her ability to write and sing uncommonly literate, infectious pop tunes. This album includes “That’s the Bad Thing About a Good Memory,” a song about the sometimes unfortunate persistence of happy recollections, and “Half Over You,” which describes a lover’s troubled mind after ending a romance. As a singer, Staley displays a Bonnie Raitt-like, tough-but-vulnerable style that allows her to tackle everything from bluesy, honky-tonk romps to sentimental ballads. Obviously, all her years as an opening act for other stars weren’t wasted. Only the songs that Staley once sold to people such as Faith Hill (“Take Me As I Am”) or Tracy Byrd (“The Keeper of the Stars”), she now sells to audiences herself.
Bottom Line: Nashville songsmith shows she can sing with the best