Divorcing Neo 2 Marry Soul
Philadelphia-based artist Jaguar Wright is back with her much-anticipated new album Divorcing Neo 2 Marry Soul, the follow-up to her critically acclaimed debut Denials, Delusions and Decisions. Wright honed her skills at Philly's world-famous Black Lily spot and was propelled into the limelight with her imaginative and gritty incantation of Jay-Z's "Song Cry" on MTV's Unplugged. Her celebrated performance proffered neo-soul stardom with the release of Denials, a journey into painful relationships, struggle and survival. The raw emotion of her debut is noticeably absent on this follow-up; Wright seems to have divorced soul altogether. Gone are the wails and sass that convinced us that Philly soul was back in black. Despite heavy-hitter producers Raphael Saadiq and Scott Storch weighing in, Neo surprisingly falls flat in capturing Wright's energy and emotion. It fails to do what Wright does best -- touch our hearts, minds and souls.
Track to burn: "Do Your Worst"
Rating: **--Nsenga Burton
In our increasingly global world, national boundaries and nationalism are mercifully fading, albeit slowly, from the grips of flag wavers. In music, outfits like Trans-Global Underground are making borders even more vague, with their amalgamations of world music -- or rather, music of the world. Since the early 90s, TGU has relied on Arabic and Asian music in its compositions. On Impossible Broadcasting, the group also fuses sitars, sax, Bulgarian vocal music and North African rhythms. On the track "Take the Tram," ska rears its perky head. "Radio Unfree Europe" is teased with sitar and feedback and static. Almost every track can qualify as a dance number. In "The Sikhman and the Rasta," the posse wraps a blanket of rowdy bhangra drums around dancehall reggae, unleashing a feisty beast. Showing its colors and waving the flag of musical awareness, Trans-Global Underground is rising to the surface.
Track to burn: "The Sikhman and the Rasta"--Rating: *** 1/2 Samir Shukla
The Way It Is
Keyshia Cole's debut examines the complexities of relationships gone bad. The opening track, "I Just Want It to be Over," sets the album's angry and energetic tone. Cole takes on deceitful lovers one by one, ripping them to shreds with anguished, pained lyrics. Even the lone upbeat offering, "Guess What," resonates with girls done wrong, as Cole's high-pitched voice spews venom, dismembering yet another no-good man. It all becomes tiresome after track five. Cole's energy is refreshing, but her lack of depth and one-octave range detract from the music on The Way. She serves as the album's executive producer and co-writer of most songs, and that may be the problem. Like many new artists, Cole relies far too heavily on superstar producers like Alicia Keys, Kanye West, John Legend, Ron Fair and E-Poppi -- and too little time developing her artistry.
Track to burn: "I Changed My Mind"
Rating: * 1/2--Nsenga Burton
Brooks & Dunn
As Turner South's forthcoming show Yokel and current Bravo hit Being Bobby Brown problematically lampoon rural and ghetto-ass Dixie culture, Brooks & Dunn's persistent odes to the small-town lifestyles of "Bonnie, Billy, and Bobby Earl" smack of pandering. On this score, the down-home barroom manifesto "Play Something Country" is less hot than Red Dirt Road's honky-tonkin' girl paean. Hillbilly Deluxe doesn't really rival that album's greatness until Ronnie Dunn's honey tones wrap around the country soul gem "Believe." Vince Gill and Sheryl Crow chime in on "Building Bridges," which extends the winning streak of Nashville's finest tenor, the tune evocative enough of twangy, funky Stax classics to make you run home and slap yo' Mama. Nothing here trumps RDR's sublime satire "Holy War." By featuring such players as Reese Wynans and Little Feat's Bill Payne, though, Brooks & Dunn pay the sonic prehistory of today's "redneck truckset" suitable homage.
Track to burn: "Believe"
Rating: ***--Kandia Crazy Horse