Fresh off her successful solo debut at Carnegie Hall, soprano Natalie Mann tackles an ambitious project—the songs of Lori Laitman and Richard Pearson Thomas—with palpable confidence and a thrilling balance of vocal strength and sensitivity. Ably accompanied by pianist Jeffrey Panko, Mann has never sounded better, her round tone and emotional range sublime or thunderous as the material demands.
These 17 songs are inspired by the psalms, and the musical settings recall Michael W. Smith and Phil Keaggy. Equally appropriate for worship or solitary prayer, these acoustic tracks promise and deliver comfort: humble, unassuming, and stripped of any varnish, with Bruxvoort Colligan’s gossamer tenor leading the way.
Though Andy Paley later enjoyed acclaim as a producer, the power-pop group he led with his brother Jonathan faded, as so many of them do. But this collection makes a joyful case for revisiting the Paleys’ catalog. The collection features the group’s entire output on Sire Records, including the bluesy, infectious “Hide and Seek” from the group’s first EP.
This album variously rolls with the calming reassurance of a Dixie river and chugs along like a steam engine. Built around hymns and southern gospel standards, Deep Roots oozes front porch intimacy, its acoustic instruments and vocal harmonies unadorned by studio trickery.
Midwestern rocker Phil Angotti dishes sweet sunshine on a disc redolent of 1970s pop textures à la Todd Rundgren and the Raspberries—though “Goodbye Never Said” has a timeless chamber-pop quality, aided by a dash of strings.
For this second disc in the Lullaby Confessions series, producer-songwriter Barrie Buckner Jr. delivers something unique: lullabies with an easy, breezy tropical bent. Aided by longtime writing partner and producer R. J. Young, Buckner knits a dreamscape that sounds like sultry R&B channeled from a nearby nebula.
Ben Bedford creates cinematic folk music with the wisdom and depth of someone twice his age. “John the Baptist” is a rousing song despite its minor key, thanks to its carousel of organ, slide guitar and backbeat drums (“The devil skulks ’round every bend / And a broken soul you cannot mend / Not till you raise repentant hands”).
This collection draws on Carrie Newcomer’s dozen releases on Rounder, adding two new tracks that continue in her tradition of exploring spiritual dimensions in everyday life. Newcomer’s gentle alto welcomes the listener with more warmth than a cappuccino.
It’s easy to write Kris Kristofferson off as another country songwriter trawling the shallows of whiskey, diesels and cornpone imagery. But that’s a myopic read of the Rhodes scholar, William Blake devotee, Golden Gloves boxer and helicopter pilot.
This project by producers Paul Marsteller and Gabriel Rhodes is an admirable tribute to pre–World War I popular music. Each singer is accompanied only by instruments from the song’s period. Richard Thomson’s sly baritone curls around “The Band Played On” like a handlebar mustache, while Graham Parker tackles “The Flying Trapeze” with saloon-and-sarsaparilla panache.
The latest six-song effort by Beki Hemingway—a distant relative of Ernest—finds her in fine voice, singing with a poised balance of tough and tender. And she has an able partner in husband-guitarist Randy Kerkman, who coproduces this disc.
While many of his contemporaries have ossified, Neil Young claws at the marrow like a deranged miner, digging deep in ways that confound expectation. He launches his new double album with a track that’s almost 28 minutes long—and that largely revolves around two chords. It’s one of three songs on this nine-track effort that top 16 minutes.
Cleverly disguised as bedtime music for young ones, Lullaby doubles as an album of exquisite, dreamy chamber pop that showcases Justin Roberts backed by a string quartet, trumpets and French horn. The plucked strings on “Heart of Gold” infuse the song with a playful sparkle that shimmers like summer twilight.
Steve Dawson of the five-piece band Dolly Varden shows sharp lyrical skill on the plaintive “Del Mar, 1976,” which invokes water towers and “the sad songs of the ’70s playing soft from a radio at the bottom of her stairs.” Dawson and wife Diane Christiansen offer fine vocal interplay on the punchy rockers “Done (Done)” and “Temperamental Complement.” It’s smart, country-tinged alt-pop ridi
Vignola and Raniolo’s dual acoustic guitars blend like espresso and gelato. From the first notes of “It Might As Well Be Spring,” the players leap with acrobatic precision from strummed triplets to descending diminished scale runs.