While it lacks the standout stunners of her last disc, 04's Hopetown, Jenny Whiteley's new Dear is a beautifully cohesive gem of a complete album. Exploring the intricacies of domestic life, Whiteley easily slips between twangy banjo-picking, slow 'n' sad Wurly-driven torch tunes, chipper roots ditties and one superlative he-said, she-said duet. A lovely, versatile singer who understands how to properly interpret a song for maximum emotional heft, Whiteley chooses well in her collaborators: Amy Millan provides dead-on harmonies, brother Dan delivers fab mandolin solos, and producer Steve Dawson's thoughtful organ accents add a Norah Jonesish quality that doesn't detract from the uniqueness of Whiteley's sound and will probably attract new fans. I do wish Whiteley surrounded herself with a few more people who'd challenge her, though. When the girl teams up with Jim Byrnes for the Loretta-and-Conwayish Other Side Of Life, you feel like you're hearing classic country all over again. And writing-wise, a little more dabbling in the darker side would put Whiteley over the top.