an R&B gem, finally on CD

Old Enough (Antone's Records)
Lou Ann Barton

By Allen Howie

One of my favorite parlor games is the "desert island" question if you were going to be shipwrecked, what records would you want to have with you? Lou Ann Barton's Old Enough has a solid spot in my top ten.

This is the first appearance of Barton's long-out-of-print debut on compact disc and it's cause for celebration. The album was co-produced by ex-Eagle Glenn Frey and legendary soul producer Jerry Wexler, whose efforts to guide a gifted singer into the spotlight were criticized by some for knocking too many of the rough edges off Barton's tough brand of Austin R&B. But these complaints ignored the simple fact that Old Enough is a terrific record, full of the singer's spitfire vocals, skintight arrangements and an unassailable selection of songs.

With support from pros like Frey, Jimmie Vaughan, Barry Beckett and the Muscle Shoals Horns, Barton digs into one deep groove after another, covering tunes ranging from Frankie Miller's great "The Doodle Song" and Marshall Crenshaw's "Brand New Lover" to chestnuts like "Finger Poppin' Time," making each sound like it was written with her in mind. And when she gets her hooks in a ballad, she doesn't let go until she's got you on your knees. On numbers like "The Sudden Stop" and "It's Raining," she breathes heartbreak and loss into every perfect note.

Barton's charming Texas drawl lends each tune a sly sense of fun that plays to her advantage, making this record a delightful introduction to one of the South's great female singers and about as much fun as you can have with your clothes on. (And once you get the habit, Barton's Forbidden Tones and Read My Lips are also available on CD, as is Dreams Come True, her collaboration with Marcia Ball and Angela Strehli.)