The beloved Eighties pop queen has plenty of fun on a solid country covers album.
Aging rock and pop stars often seek a late-career safe harbor in country music, but 62-year-old Cyndi Lauper tackles the genre with characteristically daring eccentricity. Rather than dully respecting the vintage material she covers here, much of which dates back to the Fifties, she dotes on it, downplaying neither her goofball humor or New Yawk accent. Not every guest spot works – Lauper’s idiosyncrasies don’t quite mesh with Alison Krauss’s pristine bluegrass harmonies on Dolly Parton’s “Hard Candy Christmas.” But Lauper and Willie Nelson are simpatico originals on “Night Life,” and “You’re the Reason Our Kids Are Ugly,” with Vince Gill playing Conway to her Loretta, is Cyndi’s kind of shtick. Lauper succeeds with two Patsy Cline numbers without mimicking that legend’s clarion precision, and she all but swipes “Funnel of Love” away from Wanda Jackson. Electronically boost the drums a tad and that track’s wiry guitar, rhythmic organ fills and hiccuped vocals would fit right in on She’s So Unusual – high praise indeed.