Grown-up good girl

LeAnn Rimes

She’s still singing “Crazy” and “Blue,” but there’s one big difference between the LeAnn Rimes who stepped onto the country music scene as a preteen in the 1990s and the polished professional who commanded the Gold Country Casino stage last week.

Rimes has grown into her voice, and it has added passion, understanding and confidence to her performances. I’m not saying her old work was formulaic, but a listener can tell the difference between a singer who’s playing at playing the blues and one who chokes up at her own, acoustic-guitar-accompanied ballad. There’s an edge that wasn’t there before.

She included her crowd-pleasing hits like “One Way Ticket” but threw in an experimental set that included “Dock of the Bay” and “Me and Bobby McGee” and a rock-flavored, danceable grouping of self-penned pieces from her new album, Twisted Angel. The latter were overshadowed by her engaging treatment of others’ songs, especially Fleetwood Mac’s “Rhiannon.”

Rimes said she’s recently taken to playing small venues. “I’ve done so many huge tours, and I just finally wanted to see everybody’s face.”

Some of her fans were as young as 6 and needed a casino escort to make their way through the smoky gaming emporium. Also, as part of the Star for the Night Foundation, four children got on stage and sang “Old Time Rock ‘n’ Roll” with her. “I know all about stage fright. It’s totally cool,” Rimes told the youngest.

That’s the truth. A few years ago, a Rimes visit to Chico ended in a called-off concert due to a Silver Dollar Fairgrounds stage deemed unsafe by her manager/dad.