Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Kristin Chenoweth -- Some Lessons Learned

Musical theatre and TV darling Kristin Chenoweth digs deep into her Oklahoma roots for her latest CD, Some Lessons Learned, a lively mix of the usual country fare -- cheating lovers and broken hearts, sung with a swagger worthy of the best Nashville singer.

Kristin proves once again what a multileveled talent she is. Well-known for her comic acting, which has made her one of the biggest draws on Broadway and earned her a Tony and an Emmy, and also as a classically trained coloratura soprano, with this CD Kristin proves she’s a skilled songwriter as well, having penned two of the recording’s 13 selections, "Mine to Love" and the hilarious "What Would Dolly Do?" (or "WW Double D").

Despite her opera training, she sounds right at home in the world of country music, which shouldn’t be surprising given her southern background and a summer of her college years spent singing at Opryland.

In her tribute song to one of her childhood heroes, Dolly Parton, she proclaims she’s “got a lot of Dolly in me” and tells her two-timing man just what he can do: “Take your truck and shove it/ I know how much you love it/ And it’s a good thing ‘cause that’s where you’re moving to./ I’m gonna pull that wig down off the shelf. / Go high heel up with someone else/ ‘Cause I asked myself/ What would Dolly do?”

Another funny song is “I Didn’t” about a couple who seemed to disagree about everything -- he wanted the covers pulled own, but she didn’t; he thought she should gain a few pounds, but she didn’t. What finally drove them apart, though, was a matter of religion: “He thought he was God/ But I didn’t.”

I also like “God and Me”: “If God and me sat down for tea/ I would ask him why he made a heart/ that could break so easily./ If God had time, would it be crime/ If I said I saw one tiny flaw in his grand design?” And I really like "Bitch About," which was released this past summer as a music video. She wants somebody who will love her and bug her and who she can bitch about and not live without. I haven’t seen the video but I would like to because she does a rousing turn on the CD.

My favorite, though, is the inspirational “I Was Here.” “I wanna do somethin’ that matters, say somethin’ different/ Somethin’ that sets the whole world on its ear./ I wanna do somethin’ better with the time I was given/ I wanna try/ to touch a few hearts in this life/ leave nothing less than somethin’ that says/ ‘I was here.’”

All but one of the songs are original compositions, all backed by an excellent group of musicians. Most of the music was recorded in Nashville.

This is Kristin’s fourth CD on the Sony Masterworks label. The first, Let Yourself Go, consists largely of American Songbook and Broadway numbers, reflecting the life she’s been living since moving to New York to pursue a theatre career. As I Am, which I especially love, features mostly Christian music, springing from her Southern Baptist upbringing, and A Lovely Way to Spend Christmas is the favorite of all my holiday music.

Luckily her contract with Sony calls for six more recordings. I’m betting the next will be of opera music. With her master’s in opera performance, that was the career Kristin was headed for before she helped a friend move to New York and while here auditioned for a musical comedy. She got the part and that was the end of her opera career, although she now makes occasional guest appearances with opera companies around the country.

Kristin will be back on TV this season in a new show, “Good Christian Bitches,” (the clip I saw of it doesn’t look too promising) and in the not too distant future back on the Great White Way in a revival of the musical On the Twentieth Century. I have higher hopes for that. And I look forward to those next six CDs!

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