Corinne Bailey Rae
Corinne Bailey Rae
Is it too early to be nostalgic for neo-soul? Given that '80s revivalism seems nearly exhausted and a '90s boom is certain to follow, probably not. Which makes the appropriate comparison for British singer Corinne Bailey Rae not Billie Holiday, as some have suggested because of her girlish rasp, but rather Erykah Badu. The Badu of a decade ago, that is, before the lure of Afro-hippie chic undid the promise of her magnificent debut.
If Rae's own brand of R&B; is, in the British tradition, occasionally too mannered and bland, it also makes a virtue of understatement. The fragile "Like a Star" and "Choux Pastry Heart" are Rae at her best, tapping into the same ethereal vibe Badu once exploited so well. "Enchantment," despite its dated drum loop, adds backbeat and backbone to the formula without sacrificing the star's subtle charm.
Laps in Seven
[Sugar Hill] A-
Sam Bush, 53, has been an influential modernizer for more than three decades, and the founding member of New Grass Revival continues to test the genre's borders with Laps in Seven.
Bush's mandolin-playing is an able pacesetter, whether it is dipping and swerving through John Hartford's sturdy "On the Road" or providing a stout backbone for "The River's Gonna Run," with vocal gilding from Emmylou Harris. Bush colors material without overwhelming it, nestling a slide mandolin line into the soulful, organ-laden sway of "I Wanna Do Right" as easily as his decorative picking on Robbie Fulks' jaunty "Where There's a Road."
Bush demonstrates the virtues of straightforward, hard-charging bluegrass as he barks with authority on the robust "Bringing in the Georgia Mail," but he does not shy from unconventional derring-do on the title track's chugging rock climax.
There is a risky quality to the blend of his own fiddle with the electric violin of Jean Luc Ponty on "New Country," but the solid, thoughtfully conceived foundations that anchor Bush's songs ensure that trips into unmarked territory are never mistaken for mere wandering.
A lot of bands out there are updating the sounds of the '70s with varying degrees of success. Wolfmother might have the highest profile, but Montreal's Priestess has the best tunes. On Hello Master, the quartet plays exciting and pomp-free riff rock that stretches the boundaries of this sometimes limiting genre.
If you're looking for straight-up Sabbath worship, it's there on songs like "Everything That You Are" and "Lay Down." But that's not all you'll find on Hello Master. The drum beat on "Run Home" would fit the sound of any neo new-wave band, while "Talk to Her" has a big chorus that could have come from a power pop record. Although it's a very catchy record, it never sacrifices hooks for power -- the two elements are in perfect harmony, like a more down-to-earth Queens of the Stone Age.