Sing It Loud

Does k.d. lang’s return to Nashville announce a resurrection of her very alternative take on country music? Yes and no. There’s enough dobro, pedal steel, and banjo to keep her work with her former band The Reclines in mind, but there is enough torch vocalizing to remind you of lang’s enormous success within the realm of contemporary pop. Sing It Loud features a new band, the first for lang since the decline of The Reclines. The Siss Boom Bang is made of music veterans who have won the love of their lead singer. "Making music with this band is the most creative experience I've had in my life. These magical confluences don't come along very often” say lang.

At the helm with lang is Guster band member Joe Pisapia who acts as the band’s music director, the record’s producer and composer of the disc’s title track as well as co-writer of 5 songs with lang. lang credits his spontaneity for the re-directed energy of the album. As lang puts it, “this is very similar to the energy I had at the very beginning of my career. There is a youthfulness and freshness to it--I guess it could be considered my mid-life crisis record. I think there is a certain joy and a certain abandonment that this record has that really comes from the "live"-ness, the spontaneity, and the fear factor of recording live.” Other members of the band include Josh Grange and Daniel Clarke, who toured with lang for her last album Watershed, the Wallflower’s drummer Fred Eltringham, and Nashville bassist Lex Price.

Sing It Loud opens with a tribute to one of lang’s great inspirations, Roy Orbison. The track begins quietly with piano, acoustic guitar and vocals, “I confess/I need you badly/Hold me in your arms/Love me madly. Pretty traditional so far, then the drums and electric guitars kick in as lang sings “I confess/I’ll be your daddy/Ask for anything/I’ll do it gladly.” Nothing like a touch of gender reversal to let you know lang is going to have fun on this release. The bombast is kept in check – just barely – as she builds to her grand crescendo.

“A Sleep with No Dreaming” features deep twangy guitar work, the kind of song that might have been found on lang’s early recordings but with the added depth of maturity. lang stated that she wanted a soulful edge for this album and that can be heard on “Perfect World” which features the kind of strings found on early Motown Recordings. The title track is an odd mix of country banjo, latin rhythms, and lounge organ, in other words, many of the elements that lang has incorporated at various points in her career. The Siss Boom Bang brings out a rock edge on the track “Sugar Buzz” without diluting lang’s vocals. Quite the opposite, she seems invigorated by the challenge of singing about the fray. “Heaven” is a gorgeous take on the Talking Heads classic minus the angst. In lang’s world it is a lush flow of silky vocals and sweet reverberating steel guitars.

As always the focus of any k.d. lang record is her remarkable voice; its dexterity continues to astound and, after nearly 30 years of singing professionally, lang is a master of nuanced phrasing.Whatever you think of her musical choices there is no denying the quality of that voice.

Rosemary Welsch (Afternoon Mix Host)