Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous. Lovely, lovely, lovely. Three is good. Twice is better.
But is it better? Does this second coming of baby-boomer country’s ultimate triple-diva cooperative, recorded in 1994 and shelved until now, actually transcend their wonderful first joint venture, in 1987? No, and nor does it actually measure up: There’s not enough of Dolly at her heart-stopping best; Emmylou overindulges her penchant for garbling lyrics and wavering around the note; and while some tracks have the superbly simple acoustic, organic production of the first album, others — “Blue Train” and Randy Newman’s “Feels Like Home,” both of which feature Ronstadt on lead — are mixing-board miasmic, beautiful enough but from a whole other place.
Most of us would prefer the crystal clarity with which Ronstadt’s magnificent contralto, still the most expressive voice of her generation, delivers the Carter Family’s “Lover’s Return.” Nits must be picked, but don’t get the wrong idea: At its best, this mutual-admiration society works with a vengeance approaching the heavenly.