Wild & Free
R&B singer Chambers puts a female perspective on Luther Allison's "Ragged and Dirty" to open the album and by the time she gets saucy with the kiss-off track "Better Things to Do" the listener is likely to notice something; Chambers has an attitude-filled voice that recalls the early work of the great Aretha Franklin. Its seduction time on the mellow, lights-down-low "Put the Sugar to Bed" and Chambers shows she's got a sense of humor on "I Prefer You," with lyrics like "Other guys may be rich and handsome baby/But I prefer you!" The bluesy gospel of "Love God" closes the album; well-traveled keys man Mike Finnigan plays on every track and pulls double duty with piano and organ on the closer.
If the Static Clears
Louise has a delicate but not fragile voice, and with understated acoustic accompaniment on cuts like "Breathe Easy" and "Cherish Sincerity," she imparts a sense of innocence. One of the album's highlights though is "Love on the Rocks;" here Louise portrays a woman who's good and tired of fighting with her lover, and the music is somewhat ominous, not unlike something that would precede an Old West gunfight. Another strong track is "No Moon at All (For Frida)" where Louise imagines what the first kiss between famed Mexican artists Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo must have been like.
Don't Be Afraid
The title cut of this album is slow and smoky and an irresistible mix of Delta blues, Link Wray-recalling guitar and gutsy vocals from Neilson; "Don't Be Afraid" perhaps owes some of its passion to the fact that it was written by Neilson's late father and finished posthumously by Tami and her brother Jay. Extremely versatile with her vocal delivery, Neilson goes full-on soul shouter for "Holy Moses" but sets the mood to Patsy Cline for "Lonely." Those who enjoy singers like Adia Victoria, ZZ Ward and the late Amy Winehouse will do themselves a favor by checking this one out.
The Beautiful Not Yet
The hopeful spirituality of "Lean in Toward the Light" opens Newcomer's latest effort; with prominent use of banjo the track is hay bale gospel at its best. Newcomer is not a pop singer but on cuts like "Cedar Rapids 10 AM" it's easy to discern a similarity between her voice and that of hit maker Anne Murray. Newcomer also plays guitar and her delicate picking shines throughout and particularly on the understated "Season of Mercy." A theme of searching and yearning connects the songs here but those just looking for some gentle escapism will find exactly what they need right here.