Actress/singer Karen Volpe has her own CD at long last called Dinner and a fancy dress. This is an album of all new pop country tunes written by Chuck Pelletier. Volpe's first association with Pelletier was his college musical The Green Room, which has received productions internationally from LA to Ireland. Volpe sang one of the most popular songs in the musical "It's All About Me"; in fact, she recorded it. And displaying her versatile talent in such other musicals as Funny Girl, The Pajama Game, Oklahoma and GCT's next show Little Shop of Horrors, she has established herself as one of the leading musical actresses to beat, in and around LA.

On the stage she is incomparable. But can she sing country? Who does she think she is, Linda Ronstadt? If you remember, Ronstadt astounded her fans by championing just about every musical field in existence. Just when she won over sceptics with Pirates of Penzance, off she went to Nelson Riddle arrangements of romantic ballads. The story has become legend. Well, I'm here to tell you that Karen Volpe's velvety dulcet tones suit beautifully the genre of country song storytelling. She has won - and with her very first solo CD.

I could hardly believe my ears as I listened to this delightfully upbeat and amusing eight-song collection. First of all, the songs by Chuck Pelletier are totally unlike the other songs he has written. The Green Room understandably comes out of his theatre background, but I never realized he had such a feel for country western music. Of course, I'm no expert in the genre, but it sure as shootin' sounded every bit as real and tuneful as what I've heard Conway Twitty, Dolly Parton, Kenny Rogers, Wynona Judd et al sing - infectious, soulful stories about all sorts of love and laced with such humor. "I Drink Because I Love You" is but one example of that down-to-earth honesty that makes divorce an illusion. If this song had been written fifteen years ago, and I had really listened to the lyrics, it would assuredly have saved my partnership! Great, real-life gutsy comic songwriting it is, and the delivery by Volpe, exceedingly versed in comic interpretation, helps to put it right at the top of the heap - should be a # one hit! On the other side of the fence there's the beautifully poignant "Daddy, Will You Love Me?" sung so sweetly and truthfully by Volpe, about a woman looking to the afterlife to secure at least some affection from her cold-hearted father. This is a standout ballad, which could also be a runaway hit. There's lots more fun with "Never Came Back" and "No Money Down". There's nothing like a great country song to tell it like it is, but still leave you hummin' and coming back for more good common sense.

Chuck Pelletier's jubilant songs brought copiously to life by Karen Volpe, whose vocal style never ceases to amaze, makes Dinner and a fancy dress an album you'll want to own. Take my word for it, I'm not a country fanatic, but Dinner and a fancy dress sure has changed my tune. What's next for Karen Volpe? The sky's the limit for this endlessly talented gal!

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