The Color Of Roses (Image Entertainment)

Lorrie Morgan's new live CD, recorded in front of a small but appreciative audience, begins as a delight -- and becomes a lot more.

The first 45 minutes of The Color Of Roses is a relaxed tour through the highlights of her 15-year recording career. The intimate setting is a perfect showcase for some of her best ballads -- "Something In Red" is playful and sultry, while "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow" and "A Picture of Me (Without You)" are marked by a desperate yearning. The enthusiastic crowd adds energy to the upbeat songs, like the pop-influenced "Half Enough," the hard-core honky-tonk of "What Part Of No" and "Trainwreck Of Emotion," and even a rousing cover version of "Harper Valley P.T.A."

But the real surprise here is how masterfully Lorrie handles the quartet of pop classics that closes the disc, all but one ("My Favorite Things") reprised from her 1998 standards album, Secret Love. Lorrie's seductive voice matches the lavish jazz-band sound with a striking combination of polish and heartfelt emotion.

Lorrie's voice has always been versatile -- equally capable of tackling flat-out rockers and tender ballads -- but her performance in The Color Of Roses' final stretch is a revelation. She sounds as if all of the well-chronicled heartbreak of her personal life has been channeled into those four songs, even as the strength in her voice suggests she has bid that pain farewell.

-- Matthew T. Everett

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