When: Tue., Oct. 8 2013

INDIA.ARIE After a four-year exile from the public eye, purveyor of spiritual, empowered R&B India.Arie returns, touring her fifth studio LP, SongVersation. Arie’s sabbatical almost became permanent, due to dissatisfaction with the music industry and a few reputed dark nights of the soul. Yet, you wouldn’t know that from Arie’s new material, a seamless continuation of her mature and introspective blues-and-Motown-rooted R&B, dominated by her assured and sandy vocals. When she debuted with her 2001 LP Acoustic Soul, Arie cited illustrious forebears like Donny Hathaway and Sam Cook, but her most telling influences are the steady, acoustic guitar-driven compositions of Bill Withers and the earnest confessionals associated with Lilith Fair, where incidentally, Arie got her first big break. Her subsequent albums flirted with reggae, country music and Turkish instrumentation. The new LP splits the difference between these mild experiments and the pristine, spare approach of Arie’s debut. It’s a shame that a relatively outre collaboration with Israeli artist Idan Raichel was scrapped, since Arie excels when stretching her self-imposed boundaries. At her worst, Arie’s lyrics can resemble Hallmark epiphanies delivered by a chirpy motivational speaker, but Arie’s firm spiritual compass commands respect.

Pat Moran

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