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Shelby Lynne Just A Little Lovin' (Lost Highway) Musical interpretation is a difficult art; you're always walking the delicate line between reverent re-invention
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SHELBY LYNNE
Just A Little Lovin'

(Lost Highway)

Musical interpretation is a difficult art; you're always walking the delicate line between reverent re-invention and mere imitation. Nearly 40 years ago, Dusty Springfield released the landmark Dusty in Memphis, which, with its throaty, bluesy vocals and open sensuality, completed her evolution from a British pop sensation to a soul chanteuse. Shelby Lynne, herself having transitioned musically from Nashville rebel to a crossover pop success, honors the Springfield songbook with Just a Little Lovin', a collection of nine classics ranging from the title track to the plaintive confessional “Anyone Who Had a Heart” and the utterly heartbreaking “You Don't Have to Say You Love Me,” plus one well-chosen original, “Pretend.” (She steers clear of the untouchable “Son of a Preacher Man.”)

“I wanted to make the kind of album that she might have made today,” Lynne recently said. “I didn't want to just record these songs; I wanted to make the recording simple and important.” Lynne collaborated with the dream team of producer Phil Ramone (who engineered Springfield's original recording of “The Look of Love”) and Al Schmitt; the project was recorded live to 2-inch tape over five days at Capital Studio A. Gone are the glamorous, soaring orchestral arrangements of the original recordings; instead, spare, graceful arrangements of piano, guitar, bass and drums frame Lynne's supple, smoky voice. Lynne inhabits the music like an actor becomes a character — while showing her own quiet vulnerability and restraint. It's as if Dusty slipped into a cozy sweater, let her hair down, curled up next to you and softly poured her heart out.

LISTEN: Must Play
Shelby Lynne's "Just a Little Lovin'"

Producer: Ramone. Engineer: Schmitt. Studio: Capitol Studios (Hollywood). Mastering: Doug Sax at The Mastering Lab (Ojai, Calif.).
Sarah Jones

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PATTY LARKIN
Watch the Sky

(Vanguard)

It's been a few years since the superb singer/songwriter Patty Larkin has come out with an album, but it was worth the wait — Watch the Sky is easily one of her best. Larkin has always had a strong instrumental presence on her CDs, but this time she really shines, supplying all manner of guitars and other stringed instruments, keyboards, loops on what is a true solo project recorded in her home studio. There's lots of textural variety to the musical underpinnings here — everything from Middle Eastern colors to Delta slide to a hint of hip-hop rhythm to more traditional folk. At once both moody and beautiful, the album offers a journey through 12 very different, but still connected, places that touch the heart and soul. If you don't know Larkin's work, this is a good place to start.

LISTEN: Must Play
Patty Larkin's "Dear Heart"

Producer: Patty Larkin. Engineers: Bette Warner, Ben Whittman, Patty Larkin. Studio: Road Narrows (Wellfleet, MA). Mastering: Ted Jensen/Sterling.
Blair Jackson

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PRENUP
Hell to Pay

(Prenup Music/Redeye)

This album came out a few months ago, but I just heard it, and so should you. Prenup is a Dublin-based “supergroup” of sorts, formed by ex-Pogue Cait O'Riordan (bass, vocals), and Fiachna O'Braonain (guitar, vocals) and Dave Clarke (drums, percussion, guitar, vocals) of Hot House Flowers. The backstory says that these three were both just on the other side of divorces when they jammed one night in honor of O'Braonain's birthday. So take Hot House Flowers, add some piss and vinegar, some Pogues raunch and laughs between friends, and you have a tight rock ‘n’ roll band as inspired as their name. My only complaint: O'Riordan's role is too back-seat. If this band sticks, it would be great to hear more of her voice.

LISTEN: Must Play
Prenup's "Suckerpunched"

Producer: Prenup. Engineers: Colin Murphy and Tony Jones. Studios: Elektra, Catch, Studio 34 (all in Dublin). Mastering: Murphy and Jones at The Bunker (Dublin) and Catch Studios.
Barbara Schultz

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SUPREME BEINGS OF LEISURE
11i

(Rykodisc)

Since their 2002 sophomore release, which helped shine a spotlight on the duo behind Supreme Beings of Leisure (Ramin Sakurai and Geri Soriano-Lightwood), the idea of electronic pop has morphed from synth and drum modules leading the production path to a more laptop-based creativity channel. On their latest, the pair delves into more atmospheric rhythms: Light synth textures around sporadic drum hits create a sensual and evocative overall pulse. Spearheading the effort is Soriano-Lightwood's strong vocals, which ebb and flow with a Sade/Enigma-like feel. The lyrics themselves sound like they are straight from the artists' diaries — reflecting on the major life changes each dealt with in between their latest and this offering: from family deaths to marriage to childbirth. This one's getting filed under my “bathtub music” iPod list.

LISTEN: Must Play
Supreme Beings of Leisure's "Angelhead"

Produced, mixed and engineered by Sakurai. Co-producer: Soriano-Lightwood. Studios: Legato Studios, Martinsound. Mastering: Don Tyler at Precision Mastering.
Sarah Benzuly

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MACEO PARKER
>Roots & Grooves

(Heads Up International)

Roots & Grooves highlights pioneering funk/soul saxophonist Maceo Parker's pairing with the WDR Big Band of Cologne, Germany, for concerts in February and March 2007. Disc 1 offers Parker's tribute to Ray Charles. Parker shines as lead vocalist on “Busted,” “You Don't Know Me” and “Georgia on My Mind,” sounding rather like Charles himself. For “What'd I Say,” the horn section takes over Charles' signature electric piano riff and trades burning solos. Parker and WDR are joined on disc 2 by bassist Rodney “Skeet” Curtis and drummer Dennis Chambers, who propel the band through tight arrangements played over fat grooves. Disc 2 concludes with Parker staples “Shake Everything You Got” and “Pass the Peas,” which showcases bandmembers' prodigious soloing chops in extended-jam form.

LISTEN: Must Play
Maceo Parker's "What'd I Say"

LISTEN: Must Play
Maceo Parker's "Off the Hook"

LISTEN: Must Play
Maceo Parker's "Pass the Peas"

Producers: Joachim Becker and Lucas Schmid. Engineer: Reinhold Nickel. Mixer: Klaus Genuit at Hansahaus Studios (Bonn, Germany). Mastering: Marko Schnieder at Skywalk Mastering (Trierweiler, Germany).
Matt Gallagher