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Listening Room: Corinne Bailey Rae, Lady Antebellum and more...
Corinne Bailey Rae, “The Sea” (Capitol) **1/2
Heavy is not a word heretofore associated with Corinne Bailey Rae — and certainly not the British songstress’ self-titled 2006 debut, double-platinum and Grammy Award-nominated set of pleasant pop-soul-jazz froth highlighted by the hit “Put Your Record On.” But in the wake of the March 2008 accidental drug overdose death of her husband Jason Rae, “The Sea” navigates a darker course through raw emotions and still-being-resolved grief. “The majestic sea,” she sings in the title track — which Rae actually wrote, prophetically, before the tragedy — “breaks everything, crushes everything ... takes everything away from me.” In “Paper Dolls”she laments that “Nobody told me I could lose something ... ” but she also makes it clear that Jason Rae is still very present in her life, referring to him in the first-person (“He’s a real live-wire”) in the ethereal opening track, “Are You Here.” The sadness is constant but not unrelenting, and it does give “The Sea” a certain heart and musical heft that gives it more weight than the material on “Corinne Bailey Rae.” Tracks such as “I’d Do It All Again,” “Love’s On Its Way” and “Diving For Hearts” ride ebb-and-flow dynamics that create new and more challenging demands on her vocals, while upbeat songs like “Feels Like the First Time,” “The Blackest Lily,” “Paris Nights/New York Mornings” and “Paper Dolls” exhibit a soulful earnestness, a sense that this time she’s singing for keeps and that the music means something greater and more hard-won to her than it has before. “The Sea” is not without hope, but any happiness is, understandably, tempered and sounds like it’s an emotion being put on the shelf while her wounded heart heals. And it’s a brave artist who gives her audience the kind of front-row seat to that process that Bailey affords us here.
Lady Antebellum, “Need You Now” (Capitol Nashville) **1/2
Country is one genre that values not fixing what’s not broken, so it’s no surprise that this Nashville trio stays a bit static on the followup to its platinum, hit-laden 2008 debut. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, mind you; the rich vocal harmonies, sharp, pop-leaning songcraft and swelling arrangements are all laudable virtues, and Lady A — whose members wrote nine of this set’s 11 tracks — still sound fresh on this second side out. The group allows a dark tinge to seep into the lovelorn strains of “Love This Pain” and indulges some dewy sentiment on “Hello World” and “If I Knew Then,” but “Need to Know’s” highlights are buoyant celebrations like “American Honey,” “Perfect Day” and “Stars Tonight,” all of which are viable candidates for summer anthems later this year.
New and Noteworthy:
Eric Bibb, “Booker’s Guitar” (Telarc International):
The roots stalwart plays tribute to Delta blues innovator Booker White, using one of White’s 1930s Resophonic National steel-body guitars, on his latest album.
Blue Rodeo, “The Things We Left Behind” (TeleSoul): The Canadian roots rockers spread 16 songs across two CDs for its 12th album.
David Bowie, “A Reality Tour” (ISO/Columbia/ Legacy): It took awhile, but this two-CD set from a Dublin, Ireland, show in 2003 captures all 30 songs from that night’s set.
Celtic Woman, “Songs From the Heart” (Manhattan): The all-female Irish troupe (you might have guessed that from the name) takes on songs by Mariah Carey, Sting and Billy Joel on this CD/DVD set.
Evacuate Chicago, “Veracity” (Rock Ridge): The debut outing by his spinoff project from humor rockers Psychostick.
Fozzy, “Chasing the Grail” (Riot! Entertainment): The Florida headbangers celebrate 1- years as a band with their fourth album.
Joe Firstman, “El Porto” (Rock Ridge): The former “Last Call with Carson Dailey” bandleader rolls back to his previous occupation as a recording artist.
Charlotte Gainsbourg, “IRM” (Because Music/ Elektra): Serge Gainsbourg’s daughter enlisted Beck to produce her third album, dueting with him on the track “Heaven Can Wait.”
Patty Griffin, “Downtown Church” (EMI/Credential):
The always dependable Griffin recorded her latest album in the historic Nashville Downtown Presbyterian Church with guests Emmylou Harris, Shawn Colvin, Raul Malo, Jim Lauderdale, Julie Miller and more.
Hiromi, “Place To Be” (Telarc International):
Japanese pianist Hiromi Uehara brings a variety of influences from world travel to her first-ever completely solo exercise.
Los Campesinos!, “Romance is Boring” (Arts+Crafts):
The high-energy Welsh septet recorded its most ambitious work yet at home and in Seattle and Connecticut.
Magnetic Fields, “Realism” (Nonesuch): After visiting power pop on 2008’s “Distortion,” Stephin Merritt and company steep themselves in orchestral and psychedelic folk influences with an all-acoustic array of instruments.
Barry Manilow, “The Greatest Love Songs of All Time” (Arista): The guy who writes the songs that make the whole world...well, you know... takes a break from the decades and gets amorous on this 13-song set.
Pat Metheny, “Orchestrion” (Nonesuch): The jazz guitar icon takes an ambitious new path here, with five compositions showcasing a variety of traditional and invented musical instruments.
Never Shout Never, “What Is Love” (Sire): The debut fulllength from Joplin, MO., teenager Christofer Drew, who will be headlining this spring’s AP Tour.
Over Mountain Men, “Glorious Day” (Ramseur):
The Avett Brothers’ Bob Crawford joins forces with North Carolina singer-songwriter David Childers and a slew of guests on this side project’s debut.
David Sanborn, “Only Everything” (Decca): James Taylor, Joss Stone, organist Joey DeFrancesco and drummer Steve Gadd are the saxophone veteran’s notable collaborators on this Phil Ramone-produced set.
Neil Sedaka, “The Music of My Life” (Razor & Tie):
The legendary songsmith wrote or co-wrote all 12 songs on first new studio album in more than a decade.
7dayBinge, “7dayBinge” (Rock Ridge Music): The terrestrial release of the debut album by this “supergroup” — which includes Kenny Olson, formerly of Kid Rock’s Twisted Brown Trucker — comes after a December roll-out online.
Sugar Blue, “Threshold” (Beeble): The Harlem harmonica ace, best known for the Rolling STones’ “Miss You,” penned nine originals, including a homage to James Cotton on “Cotton Tree,” for this outing.
TAB the Band, “Zoo Noises”:
The Boston band featuring two sons of Aerosmith’s Joe Perry expands to a quartet on its third album.
Various Artists, “NOW That’s What I Call Love” (EMI/Sony/Universal): Love songs by Taylor Swift, Nora Jones, Keith Urban, Nickelback, Leona Lewis and others are featured on this romantic addition to the NOW series.
From The Vaults: DMX, “The Best of DMX” (UMe); Vince Gill, “Love Songs” (UMe); Whitney Houston, “Whitney Houston — 25th Anniversary Edition” (Arista/Legacy); Peggy Lee, “Two Shows Nightly” and “Let’s Love” (Collector’s Choice); Dean Martin, “Essential Love Songs” (Capitol/EMI); New Found Glory, “New Found Glory (10th Anniversary Edition)” (UMe); Elvis Presley, “Viva Las Vegas,” “Girl Happy,” “Fun in Acapulco,” “Roustabout,” “Girls! Girls! Girls!,” “Clambake,” “Frankie and Johnny” (RCA/Legacy)
New Music DVDs: Michael Jackson, “This is It!” (Sony)
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