India.Arie 

Testimony: Vol. 2, Love & Politics

There's got to be a better way, India.Arie cries out in raspy alto tones over Keb' Mo's blue-note moaning Dobro on "Better Way," the hardest-hitting track on her partially political new CD. Not only does she take on the previous president for the war in the Middle East and his handling of the great New Orleans flood, but she also risks a backlash from the hardcore hip-hop crowd by daring to chide "children" who glorify their bodies on TV and a "sweet buttered crawdad" who imbibes codeine cough syrup. Although India doesn't say his name, she's obviously talking about syrup-sipping New Orleans rapper Lil Wayne.

The sentiments of other political tunes seldom rise above platitudes, such as the universality of ghettos and love being the answer to hate. India's romantic songs are similarly positive, yet they're in many ways superior to her political ones and are at times quite delectable, particularly her chocolate and fruit metaphors in duets with crooners Musiq Soulchild and Terrell Carter. Gospel, jazz, and even Arabic flavors flow through some selections, and a guest list that also includes Brooklyn hip-hop legend MC Lyte, Jamaican reggae singer Gramps Morgan, Turkish pop queen Sezen Aksu, and Ivory Coast vocalist Dobet Gnahoré brings further diversity to the Denver-born singer-songwriter's life-affirming music. (Universal Republic)

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