Music reviews: Juliana Hatfield, Crystal Shawanda, Karina
Listening to Juliana Hatfields new album, How to Walk Away, is like reading the diary of that girlfriend you cruelly dumped, full of melancholy and a little bit of acid.Hatfields 10th solo album marks her 20th year as a recording artist and coincides with the release of her autobiography, When I Grow Up. Its as if weve watched her grow up in that time. She came onto the scene in the 1980s with Bostons Blake Babies, a teen looking frail and sweet but tough as nails. She morphed into Evan Dandos Drug Buddy in the 1990s, an edgy 20-something with the voice of an angry fairy.Two decades later, shes more mature and self-assured, but more vulnerable on How to Walk Away, her first release since 2005s Made in China.In many ways, this confessional album parallels the emotions you feel after being dumped, alternating from depression to caustic bitterness. Producer Andy Chase brings a lushness to How to Walk Away, with occasional piano and strings that deepen the emotional impact.The best songs here are the ones in which Hatfields a little bit angry, like Just Lust, and its chorus that comes like a slap in the face: Its just lust/It doesnt mean I love you. Or the slamming door of Now Im Gone.Depression, a problem Hatfield struggled with even at her most successful, seeps into almost every song and it can be a bummer. And though generally beautiful, its a hard album to listen to at times. But like Becks Sea Change or Bob Dylans Tangled Up in Blue, its worth wading into, especially if youre hearts been broken recently.CHECK THIS TRACK OUT: Hatfield is at her most upbeat musically and heartbreaking lyrically on So Alone, a song most folks whove battled depression will find distressingly easy to identify with. She sings: Its late at night and you need somebody to talk to/But who are those people that you once knew?/And if you called just what would you say/Would you break down right away?/Youre so alone, youre so alone, you wanna die and nobody knows.
A Native American raised on a reservation in Ontario, Canada, Crystal Shawanda owns an amped-up voice and a professed love for old-school country, shouting out to Patsy Cline in her lyrics and covering the Hank Williams classic Your Cheatin Heart.But the rest of Dawn Of A New Day, the 27-year-olds debut album, rocks as aggressively as any contemporary country album of 2008. Her bluesy, in-your-face style crosses the vocal pyrotechnics of Carrie Underwood with the uncompromising soul power of Mary J. Blige. This is country music flexed and fueled to connect with those who listen to modern rock and Alicia Keys-style urban pop.Lyrically, Shawanda focuses on autobiographical tunes describing where she comes from (Evolution), where shes going (the title cut) and what a man should realize about her (My Roots Are Showing). She falters when she stifles her individuality for generic Nashville sentimentality, as in the ballad You Can Let Go. Shes much better when slow songs include a sweet- soul sway, as in Tender Side.Fortunately, most of Dawn Of A New Day suggests Nashville has discovered another strong female vocalist capable of establishing her own point of view.CHECK THIS OUT: I Need A Man, set to Midwestern roots-rock guitar crunch, shows an unfettered lustfulness that other female country singers dont dare reveal.
On 90s Baby, the opening track on the CD First Love, 17-year-old Karina sings, Adjust your radios, Im fin to school ya/Yeah Im a youngin yo, but Im about to move ya, promise. And she delivers on her word on her exceptional debut.The 11-track set features songs that other teens, and even those a little older, can relate to. From challenging stereotypes about male/female relationships (Can U Handle It, co-written by Ne-Yo) to brushing off haters (Cant Bring Me Down) to the current single, Cant Find the Words, about a love that words cannot describe, Karinas voice adds vibrancy to the simple, basic themes of life.The powerful first single, 16 War, shows Karinas maturity. Penned by Terius The-Dream Nash and Christopher Tricky Stewart, the team behind Rihannas Umbrella and Mariah Careys Touch My Body, Karina tackles issues like peer pressure, materialism and jealously adding a sense of seriousness that most of her peers lack.The piano-driven Slow Motion is Karina at the top of her game, reminiscent of a young Alicia Keys or John Legend. She sings about not rushing love while hitting every smooth note on the piano keys and on the mic.CHECK THIS OUT: On The Love We Got, The-Dream and Tricky go a little deeper with Karina. The classic-sounding tune reminds listeners of the great R&B records of the 1990s, and explains why this 90s baby is the real deal.
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