Although “Too Big for This Town,” the opener on Joy Lynn White’s third album, The Lucky Few (Little Dog/Mercury), tells the familiar tale of escaping a stifling small town, it doubles nicely as an expression of her liberation from the Nashville machine. White made a pair of better-than-average straightforward country albums for Columbia earlier this decade, neither of which managed to crack country radio, and soon after she was unceremoniously dumped by the label. The experience must have lit a fire under her, because White’s latest, recorded in Burbank, is one of the year’s best efforts. The joint production by Pete Anderson, who runs Little Dog, and Dusty Wakeman provides both a tough edge and gorgeous melodic flourishes to set off White’s powerhouse singing. If Wynonna Judd sang Jim Lauderdale’s country-soul gem “Why Do I Love You,” she might rival Michael Bolton for hollow bombast, but White brings off just the right balance of internal confusion and external pleading–and she delivers the same sort of empathetic readings on each of the album’s ten selections. Although her two originals are plenty impressive, it’s her wise choice of stylistically diverse tunes and her interpretive ability that sets her apart. It’s hard to improve on a Lucinda Williams song, as Mary-Chapin Carpenter proved with her stone cold “Passionate Kisses” a few years ago, but White’s take on “I Just Wanted to See You So Bad” conveys all of the lusty desire the tune requires without copping Williams’s distinctive phrasing. White will be accompanied by a lone acoustic guitar for this show. Saturday, 8 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport; 773-525-2508. PETER MARGASAK

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo by Hendry Diltz.