Meshell Ndegeocello 

Weather

Singer/songwriter/bassist Meshell Ndegeocello clearly works at her own pace, routinely taking two or three years (sometimes longer) between releases. With producer du jour Joe Henry helming Weather, Ndegeocello continues fashioning her own singular sonic scene, seemingly oblivious to whatever's fashionable. While her last few albums featured jazz overtones, Weather is a blend of contemplative folk and semi-funk groove, with bits of rock in the mix.

Weather finds Ms. N backed by basically the same band as on 2009's Devil's Halo. Ndegeocello's voices (yes, plural) command center stage via spoken musings, sultry but slightly parched torch singing (almost a purr), and a wise trill. Most songs are anchored by a solid beat and filled out by atmospheric production (Henry thankfully avoids Daniel Lanois' soupy-ambience shtick) and crisp, distinct instruments. Weather's songs aren't of the catchy variety, and in fact, some of the songs sound a bit obtuse and could use some engaging melodic hooks. However, "Chance" pulses and prances in ways akin to The Police's "Every Breath You Take" — this could be a hit. Despite its mournful cadence, "Crazy and Wild" is a droll declaration of love and passion with sing-song vocals and an oddly circus-music-sounding piano solo. Ndegeocello's wiry bass asserts itself on the Gang of Four-like (in their funky days) "Dirty World."

She also includes a couple of neat-o covers — Leonard Cohen's elegy "Chelsea Hotel" (which may have been intended for Janis Joplin), and The Soul Children's "Don't Take My Kindness for Weakness," which expresses respect-me assertiveness in a demure yet uncompromising manner. Weather embodies ambivalence and sharp contrasts, darkly and alluringly. (Naïve)

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