Catie Curtis A Crash Course in Roses

It’s hard to argue with the critical accolades that were showered over Lucinda Williams’ 1998 album, but it’s hard to figure out why that was considered head and shoulders above any number of decent roots rock albums released that year. In 1999, Maine’s Catie Curtis checks in with what may be the finest singer/songwriter Americana album you’ll hear this year, but because it doesn’t come with a long history or birthing pains you might miss it if you’re not careful. There are at least three underdog hits “World Don’t Owe Me,” the jaw-dropping love song “Magnolia St.” and “What Does it Matter,” the latter about coming out in a small town and unrequited love for home. Crash Course, her third album and first for Ryko, highlights all of Curtis’ strengths: memorable narratives, soothing melodies, perfect phrasing and a smooth voice that’s never overbearing, underwhelming, or cloying. Ben Wisch’s production leans toward the slick, but it’s never syrupy, and if it eases more conservative listeners into the wonderful world of Catie Curtis, let it be. (Rykodisc)