There is pop, of course, and then there is pap. Pap, in this case is Nashville, by way of New York. It is country music put through the corporate strainer. It is a region bounded by the nebulous noodlings of John Denver, Mac Davis and their ilk. It is musical milk toast with a side of ham-hock ho-hums.
One of the ladies-in-waiting to the throne of pap queendom is singer Crystal Gayle. Her show last night in the Concert Hall of the Kennedy Center was a hokey hodgepodge of various musical styles, all given a down-home twist by the forced twang of Gayle's voice.
Swishing her nearly knee-length hair in rural abandon, she frolicked through vaguely rockish numbers, a straight middle-of-the-road ballad or two, a bit of '30s musical nostalgia and a song by Johnny Cash. What she never quite managed was a fervor and an honesty of expression that characterizes such female country vocalists as the early Dolly Parton or the contemporary Emmylou Harris. Backed by a seasoned band of Nashville session men, Gayle tried her best to accommodate just about every taste, but for the most part she sounded like a stale Streisand slumming it in the sticks.
Those country girls ain't what they used to be.