Though she’s recorded steadily since the late 80s, Texas singer-songwriter Kimmie Rhodes hasn’t enjoyed either the commercial or critical cachet of many of the other alt-country and Americana acts. Both Wynonna and Trisha Yearwood have recorded her songs, but she hasn’t been a steady go-to songwriter like, say, Gretchen Peters or Kim Richey. That’s largely the result of how unassuming Rhodes’ work routinely is: Her songs are never less than well-constructed and are always observed in plainspoken but effective lines, while her singing hinges on her gentle, wispy voice.
Cowgirl Boudoir is at least intermittently a departure for Rhodes, then, because it pushes her aesthetic beyond her comfortable Texas country style. Though the album rarely lives up to the intrigue promised by its title, there’s an assertive POV on songs like “Lover Killing Time” and “Don’t Leave Me Like This” and a lived-in warmth and sensuality in Rhodes’ deliveries of “None of Us Are Innocent” and “Having You Around,” a duet with Johnny Goudie. The production on “I Am Falling” and “The Sky Fell Down” even recalls the scores of spaghetti Westerns, bringing a hint of mystery and depth to Rhodes’ material.
The album could stand a few more flourishes of that sort. The middle third drags through a series of pleasant but slight ballads that simply lack the grit, in either their lyrics or Rhodes’ performances, to leave much of an impression at all. But when Rhodes is less timid and pushes beyond what’s simple and straightforward, Cowgirl Boudoir rates as perhaps her strongest, most diverse album.
Recommended Tracks: “Having You Around,” “None of Us Are Innocent,” “I Am Falling”