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Music Review: Linda Ronstadt – Hand Sown … Home Grown

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Early 1969 found Linda Ronstadt leaving The Stone Poneys behind and embarking upon a solo career which would become one of the most commercially successful in music history. She would, over time, record dozens of albums, placing 36 of them on the national charts in the United States. Her singles, which charted 38 times over, would receive massive airplay during the seventies and eighties. To date, such success has garnered Ronstadt eleven Grammy Awards, over one hundred million albums sold, and recognition as one of the premiere female artists of her generation. 

Hand Sown … Home Grown was her first solo album, released in March of 1969. It was not an auspicious debut as it sold less than 20,000 copies and failed to crack the top 200 album charts in the States. What it did do, though, was establish her hybrid country/rock sound which she would hone to perfection during the next few years.

The album is comprised of an eclectic group of songs, helping to establish her as an interpreter of other songwriter’s material. While the album would produce no enduring performances, when taken as a whole it comes across as a solid effort some forty years on.

She tackles two Dylan tunes with good results. “Baby You Been On My Mind” and “I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight” are interesting interpretations as Ronstadt’s powerful vocals give them a different feel than the originals. The best tracks are her gentle renditions of Fred Neil’s “The Dolphins” and old band mate Ken Edwards “The Long Way Around.” Randy Newman’s “Bet No One Ever Hurt This Bad” served as a perfect vehicle for her to just cut loose and let her voice soar.

Linda Ronstadt toured constantly during this period of her career, opening for such acts as Jackson Browne, The Doors, and Neil Young, building a fan base which would stay with her through the years.

Hand Sown … Home Grown may not be her best album and probably doesn't even rank in the top ten of her impressive catalogue. Still, for the initial release by one of the superstars of American music, it makes for a nice listen.

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