Review: Price caps career with stirring last album

  • Posted: Wednesday, April 16, 2014 10:05 p.m.
AP Photo/139th Broadway
This CD cover image released by 139th Broadway shows “Beauty Is ...” by Ray Price.
AP Photo/139th Broadway This CD cover image released by 139th Broadway shows “Beauty Is ...” by Ray Price.

Ray Price, “Beauty Is ...” (AmeriMonte)

The late Ray Price titled his final studio recording “Beauty Is ...” after an opening duet with Vince Gill that draws on the axiom about the eye of the beholder. Music is similarly subjective, but it would be hard to imagine anyone not recognizing the sublime beauty of the late Ray Price’s singing: He owned one of the richest voices and most emotionally expressive styles in country music history.

Price died in December, and when he entered the studio earlier in 2013 with producer Fred Foster, he realized “Beauty Is ...” quite likely would be his last. At age 87, he had spent a couple of years battling cancer and other ailments. Live, and on record, Price’s voice had remained a remarkable instrument, yet there are moments on “Beauty Is ...” where age, for the first time, appears to limit his breath and range.

But Foster arranges these love songs to capitalize on the tonal quality of Price’s voice. Set to string orchestrations accented by country instrumentation, Price sounds like a wise sage with a big heart and a gentle soul on touching songs such as Willie Nelson’s “It Always Will Be,” a romantic duet with Martina McBride on the standard “An Affair To Remember” and a second duet with Gill on the lovely “Until Then.”

Graceful to the end, Price takes a final bow with an elegant collection that nicely caps a great musical legacy.

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