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Loveless Finds Her Voice Again : Singer, Who’ll Appear at Coach House, Looks for Platinum After Surgery, Letdown

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

“Each album is always a beginning,” Patty Loveless said during a phone conversation from a tour stop in Central California.

“It’s like another child that you’ve given birth: You sit back and wonder how this one is going to turn out.”

If Loveless’ albums are indeed like her children, then her sixth album, “Only What I Feel,” due for release this spring, certainly was her most difficult pregnancy.

After five albums with MCA Records, Loveless changed labels to Sony/Epic last year. At MCA, she had gradually developed her career to a peak in 1988 with her album “Honky Tonk Angel,” which went gold, indicating sales of more than 500,000 copies.

The Pikeville, Ky.-born singer further established herself as one of country’s leading female vocalists in 1990 with another big seller, “On Down the Line.” That album spawned hit singles including the title cut and “I’m That Kind of Girl.”

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Her fifth album “Up Against My Heart,” however, was something of a commercial disappointment.

“I believed in that album with all my heart,” said Loveless, who plays two shows Sunday at the Coach House. “I felt as though somehow it just got lost in the shuffle. I feel that album just needed a little more push than it was given. I was a little bit disappointed, but I picked myself up and I dusted myself off.”

Regaining her stride turned out to be more difficult than Loveless anticipated.

With the pressure of a new record label and the urge to regain her career momentum, Loveless encountered a frustrating setback: In the middle of recording the new album last fall, she developed an enlarged blood vessel in her throat requiring surgery.

“My vocal condition was affecting the power of my voice,” she explained. “I was not hitting notes as strongly as before. I was getting tired after singing a song four or five times.

“I thought, ‘Boy, something’s not sounding right. I’m not hitting the right pitch.’ And I knew. Also, my husband (Emory Gordy Jr.), who produced the album, told me he could definitely tell the difference.”

Because she had commitments, including a concert tour, an appearance on CBS-TV’s “Women in Country” special and recording, she tried to delay the surgery.

“It was an emotional time,” she said. “I just felt a little scared. I guess it was God’s way of saying, ‘You’ve got to take a vacation and you’ll come back better.’ I had to believe that.”

The doctor examined her the day before she was to go on tour and told her the surgery could wait no longer.

“My manager, Larry Fitzgerald, went to the doctor with me. . . . I’ll tell you the truth. If Larry had not gone with me, I probably would have walked out of the doctor’s office and said, ‘Well, boys, let’s get on the bus.’ ”

Loveless had the surgery Oct. 21. She went back to re-record the album nine weeks later on Jan. 4, her birthday.

“I had to go back and re-sing all the material we had recorded before the surgery,” Loveless said. “It was scary for me. It was really frightening.

“I wondered if I was going to sound right. It was a little bit scary when I got into the studio and started singing the very first song. When the musicians got through, they came in and they said, ‘Your voice is stronger and we can tell.’ That made me feel good.”

After all the difficulties, Loveless said the album turned out to be everything she had hoped it would be.

“I’m very pleased after going through so much torment,” she said. “There were a couple on songs that were really hard for me. I thought I wasn’t singing them right.

“A little while ago I was listening . . . to (her own performance on) this song called “How Lucky You Are,” and I said, ‘Wow, we finally nailed it.’ I was about to cry.”

Loveless hopes that “Only What I Feel” will be her first platinum album, meaning sales of more than 1 million copies.

“For women in country music, getting that platinum album is a big goal,” she said. “A lot of women have reached it, but Patty Loveless hasn’t yet. I pray for a platinum album.

“There have been quite a few ladies now who have gotten one, but I haven’t reached that goal yet and I want to see one. Boy, if I could see a double platinum album like Reba McEntire has, that would be something else.”

Sales, however, aren’t everything to Loveless.

“I just want to make music that people can look back on and go, ‘That was a really good album.’ Like Patsy Cline. Twenty years from now I want people to say my records were good.”

Patty Loveless sings Sunday at 7 and 9:30 p.m. at the Coach House, 33157 Camino Capistrano, San Juan Capistrano. $19.50. (714) 496-8930.


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