Reba McEntyre, Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds, James Blunt, Luther Vandross, and comedian Michael Ian Black. WEB-ONLY: Demetra, Brush, Divasonic, Laura Aidanblaise, Abigail Hopkins, MOTU, Foley McKenna Band.
By Nancy Ford
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The duets concept works for Sinatra and Bennett. Why shouldn’t it work for Reba? The iconic singer/actor equally effectively harmonizes with Justin Timberlake, Carole King, Kelly Clarkson, Vince Gill, Faith Hill, and a slew of others. MCA Nashville (www.reba.com). — Review: N.F.
Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds
Here the 10-time-Grammy-winning super producer performs and strums top easy listening from the ’70s, lovingly resurrecting James Taylor, Jim Croce, and Bread staples, among others. But the real treat here is Edmonds’ non-sequiter, “The Soldiers Song,” a moving and patriotic tribute that doesn’t take sides. Island Def Jam Records (www.islanddefjam.com). — Review: N.F.
All the Lost Souls
This angel-voiced, former NATO reconnaissance officer gets real, real deep with these self-penned songs about mortality (“I’ll Take Everything”), lost love (“Same Mistake”), death (“Carry You Home”), and other cheery concepts. Musically, it’s beautiful, so beautiful, it’s true. But remove all sharp objects from your immediate grasp before listening. Custard/ Atlantic Records (www.jamesblunt.com). — Review: N.F.
The King of Smooth lives on with this four-CD box set, covering what appears to be everything the man ever warbled between 1973 and 2003. Contains early demos, live performances, a beyond-the-grave duet with Beyoncé, and other audible goodies. The achingly beautiful, unreleased-’til-now “There’s Only You” makes us miss him even more. Epic/Legacy (www.legacyrecordings.com). — Review: N.F.
Michael Ian Black
I Am a Wonderful Man
In his track, “Gay?,” Black (VH1’s I Love the Eighties) refutes the notion of insulting an effeminate man by calling him gay. From Black’s vantage point, being gay is like saying, “I am so much MAN, a woman isn’t enough for me. I need another man! That’s how masculine I am!” Comedy Central Records (www.ComedyCentral.com). — Preview: Eric A.T. Dieckman
WEB-ONLY GROOVEOUT SHORTS
Fun and energetic for the most part, these tunes are solid and listenable when Demetra sticks to the driving, pop-py sound. “Beam Me Up, Scotty” is particularly catchy. Discerning listeners might want to skip the slower tracks, though. Demetra Music (www.demetramusic.com).
Brush has been favorably compared to Depeche Mode, and rightly so, serving up a respectable paring of pop rock and electronica on this debut album. Standouts are “BluDiamond” and “Tending Bar.” Details: www.billybrush.com.
Electronica-meets-world-meets-something-you-might-hear-in-a-massage-therapist’s-office might not be the most succinct way to describe these tunes, but it’s as close as we can get. Great background music if you’re trying to concentrate on something else. Digital Bliss Recordings (www.digitalblissproductions.com).
Get Thee to the World
Clear-voiced with thoughtful lyrics, Aidanblaise delivers hints of Tori Amos and maybe even a little Bjork in this sophomore release. Nice guitar and keyboard work, especially on “Bloodlove” and “Debauched.” Masterminds Studios (www.aidanblaise.com).
Blue Satin Alley
Being the daughter of renowned actor Sir Anthony Hopkins, this rockin’ Welsh singer-songwriter’s genes are naturally pre-disposed toward creativity. It would be great fun for Bayou City Women’s Chorus to pick up on the quick and quirky a capella piece, “I’ll Be Waiting for You by the Bus Stand.” Possessed Records (www.abigailhopkins.com).
Going Back to Memphis
MOTU is Dr. Richard Michelson, who marries blues and roots in this pleasant, second album. Howlin’ Wolf’s “Smokestack lightening” gets a respectable tip of the hat with Michelson’s strong slide guitar and growlin’ vocals. Brandan Entertainment Group (www.motu.net).
Foley McKenna Band
Moving My Feet
You will likely move your feet to this indie rock EP that has more than a little country flavor to it: “The Wheels” opens with lyrics about a train, for god’s sake, but then this new EP lapses into a jazzy little rift with “My Friend.” A little scattered, but enjoyable and fresh, nonetheless. Ed McKenna produced. Details: (www.thefmb.com).