By Barry Gilbert
St. Louis Post-Dispatch


August 1, 2006

Linda Ronstadt and Ann Savoy
'Adieu False Heart'
Vanguard Records
Grade: A

"Adieu False Heart" is a rare CD of such shimmering beauty that it works equally well as serious listening, background music for quiet conversation or as a soundtrack for a late-night, solitary drive.

But that shouldn't be a surprise given the exquisite voices -- and taste -- involved in the project.

Linda Ronstadt will be the marquee name for most people. Her career in the 20-plus years since her Southern California country-rock days has been marked by reach, if not always by grasp, as she explored American standards, the Mexican music of her family in Tucson, Ariz., country harmonies, and even Gilbert and Sullivan.

Louisiana's Ann Savoy is from a royal family of Cajun music and plays with accordianist-husband Marc Savoy and fiddler Michael Doucet in the Savoy-Doucet Cajun Band, among others. A music historian and author, she and Ronstadt first sang together four years ago on the Cajun tribute album "Evangeline Made," produced by Savoy, and "Adieu False Heart" is a natural follow-up to that work.

"Adieu" is clearly Cajun in spirit, but it is neither forced nor cliched. It is sung mostly in English, and Ronstadt and Savoy are supported by all-star acoustic players, including Sam Bush, Stuart Duncan, Byron House and Sam Broussard. Guitarist Buddy Miller sits in on his wife Julie's "I Can't Get Over You."

Soprano Ronstadt and alto Savoy alternate lead vocals on this collection about love, lost love and broken hearts, harmonizing in service to songs by some of our best writers. Brit-folk rocker Richard Thompson is represented by two tunes, "King of Bohemia" and "Burns' Supper," proving again how timeless and beyond genre his writing is.

Quintessential American writers whose songs naturally absorb Cajun flavors include Bill Monroe ("The One I Love Is Gone"), John Jacob Niles ("Go Away From My Window") and Kevin Welch ("Too Old to Die Young").

Creole French gets its due on "Parlez-Moi D'Amour" and "Plus Tu Tournes."

But the revelation, with Ronstadt and Savoy trading leads on the verses and chorus, is "Walk Away Renee," a Left Banke classic that made it to No. 5 in 1966. Slower than the original, with a simple trio of violin, viola and cello replacing the Left Banke's Baroque string section, this version, buoyed by Ronstadt's emotional delivery, makes the heartbreak palpable.

Ronstadt may no longer be spitting out the lyrics to snarling rockers such as Warren Zevon's "Poor Poor Pitiful Me," but her singing has rarely been more beautiful. Neither has Savoy's.

Together, they make magic.