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A quiet, romantic dinner at home, with k. d. lang
Take five accomplished musicians. Put them together in a studio in Nashville, give them a fun, sassy name and stir vigorously.
Then, for the finishing touch, garnish liberally with a Canadian chanteuse with a penchant for lower-case letters, who hasn’t had a band to call her own in about two decades, and serve piping hot.
Now, nobody is trying to be coy here. All you have to do is ask . . .
Yes, it’s k.d. lang and the Siss Boom Bang, with their April 12 Nonesuch release Sing It Loud.
Joining her, for the first time since the demise of the Reclines, the group that first brought her to fame and fortune, is a cohesive, coherent band of fellow-travelers. Among them are multi-instrumentalist Joe Pisapia, keyboardist Daniel Clarke, guitarist Joshua Grange, bassist Lex Price and drummer Fred Eltringham.
Price has played with Mindy Smith and Peter Bradley Adams, while Eltringham is best known for his work with the Wallflowers, Jakob Dylan’s band. Dylan is, of course, Bob Dylan’s son, known for the song “One Headlight.”
Of course, that is all completely besides the point. Nobody would expect lang to surround herself with less-than-stellar musicians, but the real question is how the new album sounds.
First, let’s start by describing the perfect scenario in which the CD should be played.
A quiet, romantic dinner at home. Given the fact that lang is a vegetarian, perhaps a nice stir-fry of quinoa, tempeh and assorted vegetables with a yellow curry sauce. A bottle of wine. Candlelight, of course.
You slip the CD in the player. Your eyes meet hers. The flourless chocolate torte is forgotten as she melts in your arms.
Now, on to the review!
Of the ten songs on the album, nine are original. Track 9, however, is a cover of the Talking Heads’ “Heaven,” which is undoubtedly the most sweeping, lyrical and moving song on the record.
That should not be construed as meaning that the rest of them are sub-par. In the first track, “I Confess,” lang busts out some of that twang that first thrust her into the spotlight, while still holding on to the miracle that her voice has become. How someone can mix country crooner and torch singer into one brush-cut package is completely beyond the ken of man or god.
The song has an almost 1950s feel to it. Were Elvis still alive, he’d probably enjoy it immensely.
“A Sleep with No Dreaming” is the next up, and Eltringham’s drums give the song an almost martial flair--until lang’s lilting voice sweeps in, and the guitars start up, and the entire affair seems as though it was taken from David Lynch’s Blue Velvet.
“The Water’s Edge” is another solid track with a slightly retro feel, while “Perfect Word” had a folk-rock feel that could grace any number of artists’ albums, perhaps the Indigo Girls or Melissa Etheridge to name a few, but much as they are wonderful artists, they would be hard-pressed to top lang’s vocals.
Following that is “Sugar Buzz,” which is bluesier than the preceding tracks, with a riff reminiscent of Tom Petty, and “Sing It Loud” has an odd juxtaposition of Dobro guitar and organ. There’s a certain sound there, almost a cross between bluegrass and late ’60s or early ’70s pop.
“Inglewood” seems a fairly typical “that’s where I fell in love” song, while “Habit of Mind” gives perhaps the most rock-inflected instrumentation on the album. It makes one wish lang would put out an actual rock album, take that lush voice out of its comfort zone.
“Heaven,” as mentioned before, is worthy of the name, and presents lang’s voice at its absolute pinnacle.
The final song, “Sorrow Nevermore,” is such a mélange of influences, it’s difficult to even begin to describe. The adjective “enjoyable” definitely seems to fit, though.
This summer, k.d. lang and the Siss Boom Bang will be on tour to support Sing It Loud. Unfortunately, there is only one show scheduled for Ohio, on June 29 at Fraze Pavilion, 695 Lincoln Park Blvd. in Kettering, a Dayton suburb. For more information, go to www.kdlang.com.
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