Jamess little brother has never been as prolific or as acclaimed as JT. Thats too bad, and those who havent been paying attention have missed some fine work, which continues on There You Are Again. The poignant Best of Friends kicks off the disc, a duet with his former sister-in-law, Carly Simon. The family connections continue with There Ill Be with James and Jamess (and Carlys) daughter Kate, and throughout the album it sounds as if Livingston has invited over a bunch of friends to play. The music and mood are thoroughly relaxed, easily crafted, but that belies the quality of the songs. The same criticism of James has also been applied to Livingston, only more so: that the music is so relaxed and well-crafted that it is all just too casual. Thats just plain wrong. The arrangements here are enchanting, and the performances are as well. Find this disc and put it in your favorites pile.
Jesse Harris Mineral Secret Sun
Norah Joness guitarist and songwriter, Jesse Harris first came to public notice with Come Away With Me, Joness Grammy-winning debut. He has also worked with The Ferdinados, and his own solo albums are minimalist, folky and gently alluring. His voice has almost the same kind of relaxed breathiness as that of Jones, but he sings in tune more. And while this music cant be categorized as jazz, really, is that of Jones? Chances are, those who have made Jones a superstar will be nearly as enthralled with Harriss own music. There are a couple missteps on Mineral, such as Corrina Corrina, and the following The Speed of Sound, both of which are just a little too precious, though the latters vibes and kalimba by jazz keyboard great Larry Goldings are fine fun.
Michael Bublé With Love Hallmark
Its all about the love on singer Michael Bublés new album, available exclusively at Hallmark stores through the end of February. With only two new songs, its hardly a new album, and its thematic unity gives it a sameness that doesnt serve it well. That said, each cut individually is engaging and romantic, with Bublé singing with his heart on his sleeve. Every song is heartfelt and receives the full Bublé treatment. Here that means he uses his stunning voice on tracks that are so well-worn as to be mundane, and all but Cant Help Falling In Love make the grade. The best cuts are probably My Funny Valentine and These Foolish Things (Remind Me Of You). Bublé is finally getting the press he deserves, and With Love, with its focus on the Valentines season and the unique distribution deal with Hallmark may help to expand his audience.
Tempest The Double Cross Magna Carta
Multi-national folk/prog outfit Tempest blends music from across the world. Norwegian leader Lief Sorbye on mandolins, guitars, and lead vocals works with an American violinist, a Cuban drummer, an Irish guitarist, and Austrian female bassist. The music is musically rich, with nods to sea chanteys, ripping prog/new age instrumentals, even a backhanded swipe at Led Zepellin, with the cut Hangman resembling Zeps Gallows Pole both lyrically and musically. Sorbye is a bit of an acquired taste as a vocalist, resembling Jethro Tulls Ian Anderson at times. The band can also sound a bit Tullish, or maybe British folk contemporaries Steeleye Span (as on Whoever You Are). Ultimately the band sounds like no one so much as itself, the mandolins and fiddles churning against the solid rhythms and guest/producer Robert Berrys keyboards.