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This article was published 19/4/2018 (1200 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
POP / ROCK
The four albums Canadian singer/songwriter Lindi Ortega has released since 2011 have clearly established her as an alt-country performer who’s equally comfortable exploring the light and the dark of life, as well as the traditional and pop/rock aspects of the genre. Yet, she’s nowhere near as successful as someone of her considerable talents should be.
Ortega nearly packed in her career after 2015’s Faded Gloryville, fed up after working nearly 20 years and still struggling to pay rent. Thankfully, she took some time to get married, move away from Nashville and gain a little perspective on what drove and drives her to make music.
Liberty is the end result, a three-part song cycle of loss, determination and rebirth that mirrors her own journey.
Working with producer Skylar Wilson and country-guitar duo Steelism (who provide a three-part Ennio Morricone-ish soundscape called Through the Dust that breaks up the album’s sections), Ortega’s reverb-drenched voice is the star of the album — conjuring images of darkness and the devil on the ominous Afraid of the Dark; declaring her resurrection in rousing form on The Comeback Kid and celebrating her newfound freedom on the title track, which invokes images of riding free through the desert to musical backing that could have been provided by Calexico. hhhh out of five
Stream these: You Ain’t Foolin’ Me, The Comeback Kid, Lovers in Love.
– John Kendle
Invasion of Privacy (Atlantic Records)
Rolling into 2018 with the momentum of a freight train, New York stripper-turned-MC Cardi B’s debut album stays within the lane she established on her critically-acclaimed mixtapes and smash hit Bodack Yellow. Skillfully over a skeleton set of drums, minimal minor key synths and 808-driven bass cuts, the emerging Queen of hip-hop delivers a debut-heavy with self-referential stories, raps about rags to riches and Cardi B’s unmistakeable New York attitude.
It has been a while since the Big Apple has been ruling hip-hop, but with tekashi69 and Cardi B leading the way, New York is back on the charts and dominating in the clubs.
Invasion of Privacy is more than an exercise in empowerment for the former stripper. Cardi flexes her staccato flows and flips simple beats into club monsters with her icy delivery.
The long-awaited debut will not only keep the haters at bay but cement her spot as one of the genre’s emerging stars. Bouncing between high-profile TV appearances, time in the studio and more pressure to hit the road, it would have been easy for the New York artist to ride the wave of Bodack Yellow while dropping a couple of singles to keep her profile in the public. Instead, Cardi drops raunchy hidden-girl-power anthems, swaggy club bangers and other cuts that flip the script on the narrative of the American dream. hhhh out of five
Stream these: Bodack Yellow, Money Back and Get Up 10
— Anthony Augustine
ROOTS / COUNTRY
Shake The Love Around (Independent)
Sometimes, when it comes to contemporary blues, it’s a good thing to challenge convention. Canadian singer/songwriter Suzie Vinnick plays with the standard modern forms delightfully on her new album, the utterly enjoyable Shake The Love Around. As a multiple Maples Blues award winner and estimable player (guitar, lap steel, bass) Vinnick is a stand out entertainer. She plays with a velvety edge and divine tone avoiding cliché and instead enabling her tunes with memorable licks that don’t detract from the mood of the song by superfluous showboating. Whether it’s the uncomplicated shuffle of Happy As Hell, the funky thump of Lean Into The Light or the boogie-filled grit of Watch Me her playfulness sets the mood perfectly. Vocally, Vinnick has been dealt a winning hand as well. Her voice is attractive and smooth yet she is still able to growl a bit when required. There are plenty of female blues shouters attempting to out-Joplin each other to more or less degrees and Ms. Vinnick wastes no time playing the impressionist here. It doesn’t take many listens to the folksy, almost Joni Mitchell-esque The Golden Rule, the exquisite rising and falling cadence she uses in John Fogerty’s A Hundred and Ten In The Shade and the delightful Beautiful Little Fool for one to realize her range is staggering. She has the kind of voice that you never get tired of hearing. The ballads Crying A River For You and Creaking Pines and album closer Drift Away are faultless and, while not strictly blues songs, reveal another facet of this artist’s undeniable capabilities. hhh1/2 out of five
Stream these: Creaking Pines, Lean Into The Light
— Jeff Monk
Terence Blanchard and the E-Collective
Live (Blue Note)
Trumpeter Terence Blanchard has a solid reputation for expressing social issues in his music. He has worked extensively to provide the music for Spike Lee projects and his last album, Breathless, specifically referred to the dying words "I can’t breathe" by Eric Garner.
This new album continues Blanchard’s anger and sadness at the current state of race relations in the U.S., including gun violence and questionable deaths of African Americans at the hands of white police. The album cover is telling — a modified peace symbol with a raised fist on the vertical line. The music here is quite hard-edged, rock influenced, with multiple electronic effects. Blanchard’s electric horn adds to the effect and predominantly the emotion is overt and powerful.
The E-Collective has Charles Altura on guitar, Fabian Almazon on piano, Oscar Seaton on drums and David "DJ" Ginyard on bass. There are several brief voiceovers by eminent theologian and educator Cornel West and on one track clashing simultaneous voiceovers of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King. These tracks were all recorded "live," but the possible other pronunciation of "live" is no accident. From opera to large ensemble compositions to small groups, Blanchard’s commitment to truthful storytelling through his music is always out front. This is jazz that is not easy but sends a powerful message to a fractured country. One hopes that the music and the message are both taken to heart. hhhh out of five
Stream these: Can Anyone Hear Me, Choices
— Keith Black
New Music for Flute
Returning to the Heights Unseen (Navona Records)
American flutist Lindsey Goodman scales musical heights with this new release by Navona Records featuring nine contemporary electro-acoustic works. The West Virginia-based artist is currently solo flutist of the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble and principal flutist of the West Virginia Symphony Orchestra, with a solid track record for commissioning new pieces including over 100 world premieres.
Her first offering, Separation Logic, immediately grabs attention with dramatic thrusts of sound and texture, including fascinating amplified key clicks. Wedding Prayer juxtaposes her live flute with its own pre-recorded track, ostensibly creating a duet with herself. The album also includes several particularly haunting works, including Sleep’s Undulating Tide that features Goodman’s own chant-like vocals, and I Play Music that gradually morphs into undulating sounds of ocean waves. The soloist displays her flair for drama with "Demon/Daemon," in which she appears "possessed" by an "evil spirit," and "suspicion of nakedness" inspired by the Biblical Garden of Eden story riddled with rhythmic anxiety. The most potent work, "For the Fallen" becomes a harrowing elegy infused with sounds of tolling chimes, pipes, gongs, and cymbals, as Goodman’s ghostly solo flute line evokes a desolate wail for those who have fallen – or simply been forgotten. hhhh out of five
— Holly Harris