A buddy and I fell into disputation about Patty Loveless. "The woods are thick with ersatz crossroads divas," he complained, "whose rediscovery of their roots occurs about 20 seconds after their pop-country careers fall apart." You're nuts, I replied. It's true, Loveless went slutting after mainstream airplay and then repented, but this is proof of her authenticity--a credential on par with the fact that her father was a Kentucky coal miner who died of black lung. You have to sin before you can be saved. "Right," said my friend. "And since returning to the righteous path she's done a bluegrass Christmas album. Please." Another point in her favor, I replied: Loretta Lynn (a distant cousin to Loveless) has done a Christmas album, as did his holiness Johnny Cash. And you roots purists ought to know better than to confuse quality with prim good taste. Consider a song like "The Grandpa That I Know," from Loveless's most recent album, On Your Way Home (Sony). I haven't heard anything so gorgeously mawkish since the Everly Brothers' Songs Our Daddy Taught Us. It takes a great voice and lots of heart to sell schmaltz like that--murder ballads are a piece of cake in comparison. When Loveless sang at the Down From the Mountain showcase here two years ago, there wasn't a dry eye in the house during "You'll Never Leave Harlan Alive," which she dedicated to the memory of her daddy ("Where the sun comes up about ten in the mornin' / And the sun goes down about three in the day / And you'll fill your cup with whatever bitter brew you're drinkin' / And you spend your life diggin' coal from the bottom of your grave"). My interlocutor nodded. "I see now the error of my opinions," he said, and we parted. $44, $39, or $35. Friday, June 4, 8 PM, Center for Performing Arts, Governors State University, Stuenkel Rd. & Governors Hwy., University Park; 708-235-2222.