Gov. Gretchen Whitmer addressed the State of Michigan after a plan to kidnap her and other Michigan government officials was thwarted by state and federal law enforcement agencies. She started by saying thank you to law enforcement and FBI agents who participated in stopping this [...]
Hear Me Out
LaBelle, “Back to Now”
Even with modern brush strokes, the feisty soulful triad – Patti LaBelle, Nona Hendrix and Sarah Dash – is more back to then versus now, resuscitating the classic funk they were known for in their heyday. The ladies behind 1975’s “Lady Marmalade” restore girl-power in “Truth Will Set You Free,” a gritty funk rocker given the Lenny Kravitz treatment (he produced the track). It’s a rare blazing moment during the 10-track album, which features lead single “Roll Out,” a lazy Auto-Tuned vocal number. The disc mostly dabbles in mid-tempo slow burners, like stale-as-old-bread but earnest “Tears for the World” and a lovely Rosa Parks tribute “Dear Rosa.” “Candlelight,” the reunion opener, is one of the best cuts, reaching above-cloud heights and immediately proving the capability of the group’s lung power three decades later. Solo projects told us so, but LaBelle’s voice is a firecracker – exploding with raw emotion so frequently during “Back to Now” it’s remarkable that the live 1973-recorded grand finale, Cole Porter’s “Miss Otis Regrets,” bursts with so many rocketing runs it could be a fire hazard. B-
Lucinda Williams, “Little Honey”
Happiness: It’s an epidemic, and it’s threatening the musicians we expect to listen to and then go, “My life doesn’t suck that bad.” It got Mary J. And now on her latest “Little Honey,” Lucinda Williams, our longtime lifeline for tissue-needing tunes, is at peace, in love and having hot sex. She rocks harder, too, than on “West,” her last sublimely hyper-dramatic affair. “Honey Bee” is an ooh-la-la, surefire growler dripping with sexual innuendo (“Oh my little honey bee, I’m so glad you stung me/Now I got your honey all over my tummy”). She offers a fame cautionary tale on “Little Rock Star,” a grand rip-roaring rocker that perfectly highlights her beautiful, cracked-around-the-edges voice – and lyrics that Amy Winehouse would benefit from digesting. And when Williams goes softer than air, like on the heart-piercing “If Wishes Were Horses,” or records a did-me-wrong mini-drama (“Jailhouse Tears”), we’re reminded that even smiley Lucinda can make our life seem peachy. B+
Lee Ann Womack, “Call Me Crazy”
Some might call her crazy, but following in the footsteps of her last album, the right-on “There’s More Where that Came From,” was actually a genius idea. The Queen of Curl-Up-And-Cry Country Ballads – best known for her picker-upper pop-crossover “I Hope You Dance” – revives the ’70s country vibe of “More,” but some of it goes down harder than the whiskey her careless man drinks on “Last Call.” As the sublime first single, “Last Call” is laced with ominous guitars and, marked by a clever zinger in the chorus (“I bet you’re in a bar – ’cause I’m always your last call”), is the album’s shiny star. “New Again,” a Dolly Parton “Coat of Many Colors”-like beauty, and “Have You Seen that Girl?” are pretty, and Womack shows off her always-emotive connection to the song’s melancholy words. But “I Found It in You” is too soggy (it makes Hallmark “poetry” look like Emily Dickinson) and abuse-parable “The Bees” is a misfit, which means “Call Me Crazy” might not stir as much buzz as its A-earning predecessor. But it’s almost solid-bee work. B-
Jennifer Hudson, “Jennifer Hudson”
On her debut, sassy “American Idol” cast-off and “Dreamgirl” Jennifer Hudson paints with a musical palette so stale I swear I found mold on my copy. “What’s Wrong (Go Away),” a track featuring rapper T-Pain that’s so WTF I found myself skipping right to the liner notes to see who was stoned when they green-lit it, should be the album’s anthem – and if someone’s looking for an answer, it’s this: Almost everything. We get the overdone Diane Warren ballad (“You Pulled Me Through”), the dime-a-dozen girl catfight on “I’m His Only Woman” featuring Fantasia – which was bested by Brandy and Monica’s “The Boy is Mine.” The pulsating opener “Spotlight” epitomizes the J-Hud we’ve come to adore, and the trite-but-grand gospel finale ends with Jesus (standard “Jesus Promised Me a Home Over There”) – and, holy shit, girl can sing. C+
Ryan Adams & the Cardinals, “Cardinology”
With back-up band The Cardinals, Ryan Adam’s poetic 10th album is a classic rock darling. Boasting the Bono-sounding “Go Easy,” guitar-driven downer “Crossed Out Name” and the poignant and powerful piano ballad “Stop,” a self-talk lament about ceasing his drug cravings, this is a worthy addiction. And legal, too.
Robin Thicke, “Something Else”
His breathy, sexy, makes-me-horny falsetto is the pearl in this shell. And on his sublime self-produced third album, silky R&B grooves are plentiful. Though Thicke’s go at social outspokenness on “Dreamworld” has been covered by his idols, the personal aspect (he’s in an interracial relationship) adds a candid touch, and the first single “Magic” isn’t so much a trick as it is a treat.
Leona Naess, “Thirteens”
Diana Ross’s ex-stepdaughter still delivers rueful lo-fi love songs with her soft-soother of a voice, a sweetly winsome instrument that befits her quiet, misty-eyed muses. But the upbeat “Un-Named” and destined radio-hit “Leave Your Boyfriends Behind,” a la-de-da friendship ode punctuated in a raucous drunken group chant proves that maybe she should drink more.
Ray LaMontagne, “Gossip in the Grain”
This terrific troubadour whose bourbon-saturated tone is an absolute ear-catch doesn’t often go for cutesy, but, here, on his third album he does – like on the cheeky tribute to Meg White of the White Stripes. Still, the wistful moments cut straight through the bone. But when he goes for the bluesy big-band sound on “You Are the Best Thing,” I can’t resist thinking that he just might be.