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Spring forward: three great artists usher in change.

Spring is all about new beginnings, growth and change, and this month's featured artists--all of whom are in the midst of their own personal and musical evolutions--are the perfect accompaniment to the season's sassy spirit.

Dreaming Of Revenge, Kaki King (Velour Music): Moving further along in her growth from acoustic instrumentalist to indie singer-songwriter, the out-lesbian guitar virtuoso offers up her fourth full-length album, a mix of dreamy, atmospheric instrumentals and sparse, folk-pop vocals. Fans will recall that 2006's Until We Felt Red was the first time King sang on a record, after two highly accomplished, acoustic guitar-based, instrumental discs that put her in the pantheon of guitar greats like Michael Hedges and Preston Reed. Her intricate finger picking and percussive, thumping style had wowed critics and live audiences alike, but Red's addition of whispery vocals, electric guitars and drum loops got her more attention from the mainstream. In the last two years, King has branched out into film scores and soundtracks--she was recently nominated for a Golden Globe for her work on the original score for the Sean Penn-directed Into the Wild--as well as collaborating with bands like the Foo Fighters and Tegan and Sara. The latter's influence can be heard on the edgy "Pull Me Out Alive," while the more sedate break-up odes "Life Being What It Is" and "2 O'Clock" recall the intimate, confessional indie pop of Mirah. The balance of the album is filled with melodic soundscapes and Electrelane-like shoegazers, each equally as compelling as any of the vocal cuts. All in all, a thoroughly enjoyable listen that shows King coming further into her own. (kakiking.com)

Break the Spell, Ellis (Rubberneck Records): One of my favorite modern troubadours, Minneapolis-based lesbian singer-songwriter Ellis, is back with her sixth album of impeccable, soul-searching and life-affirming acoustic folk-pop compositions. Self-discovery is tricky lyrical territory, to be sure, but Ellis does it so well--never once slipping into cheesiness, and ever-so-openly taking us, the listeners, along on her personal journey. The lead-off single, "How Would It Be," is an upbeat carpe diem anthem challenging self-awareness and profoundly asking "What if heaven and hell was right now?" The hopeful title track continues with the theme of spiritual awakening and consciousness, while the poignant "Words You Said" and "Before You Leave" deal with the complexities of losing someoneyou love. The perky "Red Light" and "Hurricane" are the catchiest cuts on the disc, already fan favorites due to their previous release on last year's five-track demo disc Ellis (available via her website). The album closes with a reworked version of the sweet "Twisted Roads," which dates back to 1998, and an elegant instrumental guitar piece, "Lake Calhoun." Not many artists can get away with this level of introspection without being labeled "too woo," but Ellis is that rare performer who transcends all cliches and is pure light and love. If you think your spirit needs some lifting--and even if you don't--this album will do it. (ellis-music.com)

Just a Little Lovin', Shelby Lynne (Lost Highway): Alabama-native Shelby Lynne is a rarity in the music world, a true maverick who crosses genres and audiences while always staying true to herself. Though her early career took a stab at the Nashville country establishment--not terribly successful, despite a 2001 Grammy for Best New Artist--her recent work shows her carving out her own roots-pop niche, and this latest set might just be her big breakthrough. Nine out of 10 tracks on this sparse, jazzy, acoustic-soul album are covers of lesbian icon Dusty Springfield classics. (The 10th song, "Pretend," is an original ballad that fits in nicely with the rest of the set.) It would be a risky endeavor for any lesser artist to take on someone as revered and beloved as Springfield, but Lynne really makes the songs her own, while at the same time paying respect to an artist with whom she shares much in common--not the least of which is her ambiguous sexuality. (Speculation has run rampant over the years, but in recent interviews, Lynne has basically admitted to being, shall we say, less than straight, with statements like, "Honey, I've done it all--I go where the love is.") Lynne's husky Southern drawl may not beat much resemblance to Springfield's sophisticated, British, blue-eyed soulfulness, but it fits these songs like a glove, particularly the more country-rockin' "Breakfast in Bed" and "Willie and Laura Mae Jones." But even the more intimate torch songs like "The Look of Love" and "Just a Little Lovin'" are aptly wrapped in Lynne's emotive twang, adding a level of vulnerability that Dusty would surely approve of. Sublimely beautiful--I can't stop playing it. (shelbylynne.com)
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Title Annotation:Music Watch
Author:Coble, Margaret
Publication:Curve
Article Type:Sound recording review
Date:May 1, 2008
Words:773
Previous Article:Charlotte Mendelson.
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