February 28, 2005 12:00 PM

This Woman

On 2002’s Twisted Angel, LeAnn Rimes moved away from country and toward the kind of musical territory occupied by Britney, Hilary and Lindsay. Her follow-up, This Woman, isn’t the pure country album Nashville fans might have preferred, but it is a first-rate pop-rock-flavored disc, slickly produced and artfully executed. “Nothin’ ‘Bout Love Makes Sense,” for instance, is a classic pop tune, witty without being crass, vigorous without being noisy. Not that Rimes has completely forgotten her country roots. “Something’s Gotta Give,” with its bluegrass shadings, is an invigorating track that will please the majority of Rimes’s hardcore country fans, while “Won’t Be Lonely Long” combines the rhythmic energy of rock with the more melody-oriented sensibility of country music. Rimes cowrote 3 of 12 songs, including the ingratiating “I Got It Bad,” which she penned with songwriter-husband Dean Sheremet. But veteran producer Dann Huff knew enough not to depend on her songwriting skills, which are still not her strength. As a transitional effort at a critical point in the 22-year-old singer’s career, this is terrific stuff that broadens Rimes’s appeal while still maintaining her standing as a major singing talent who should be talked about in the same sentences as Emmylou Harris, Linda Ronstadt and even the revered Patsy Cline. The same certainly can’t be said for Britney, Hilary and Lindsay.

DOWNLOAD THIS: “Nothin’ ‘Bout Love Makes Sense”

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