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Rock - Released July 17, 2020 | Verve Forecast

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Pop - Released May 29, 2020 | Verve Forecast

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One year after the release of his debut (Qobuzissime-winning) album in February 2019, J.S. Ondara has released, in the midst of the Covid-19 (then)epidemic, the aptly named “Tales of Isolation”. Lockdown clearly hasn’t deterred this young Kenyan, described by his label as a fusion of Tracy Chapman and Michael Kiwanuka. Following along the lines of his two most beloved records, Dylan’s “The Freewheelin’” and Springsteen’s “Nebraska”, Ondara offers a collection of acoustic songs that are carried by his vibrant singing and plaintive, androgynous voice that pulls on the heart strings. In “Folk n’ Roll Vol. 1: Tales Of Isolation”, the American Dream which fascinates him so once more comes face to face with life’s struggles. And creation in itself is most moving when the artist expresses what’s closest to them. Such is the ideal fuel for the songs of a troubadour of Ondara’s calibre, who is at his most true and powerful when the skies are dark and stormy. © Max Dembo/Qobuz
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Alternative & Indie - Released May 8, 2020 | Verve Forecast

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Alternative & Indie - Released May 8, 2020 | Verve Forecast

Bridget Kearney's most lucrative gig is playing bass with the retro-soul band Lake Street Dive, and she's also shown she can make fine music with a personality of its own outside the context of the group. In 2017, Kearney cut a charming solo effort, Won't Let You Down, that revealed she was a fine vocalist, a songwriter with a talent for merging soul, pop, and rock idioms, and could handle guitar, keys, and lead vocals with the same confidence she brought to her bass playing. Kearney is also friends with Benjamin Lazar Davis, who has worked with Okkervil River and Joan as Police Woman and shares her passion for music from West Africa. In 2015, Kearney and Davis traveled to Ghana to record an EP, BAWA, and five years later the two returned to West Africa to make a full-length album, Still Flying. Cut using a makeshift recording setup, Kearney and Davis laid down the basic tracks in Ghana and added overdubs in the United States, and the result is a cross-cultural delight, mixing up African sounds with Western pop, dance, and electronic flavors. If Dirty Projectors confirmed you could blend indie rock and King Sunny Ade and make it work, on Still Flying Kearney and Davis take the idea and run with it, creating music that's adventurous and fun while bouncing back and forth between cool dance beats and the sinewy nexus of rhythm and melody that their collaborators from Ghana brought to the table. Still Flying features crucial contributions from two Ghanaian musicians of note, Stevo Atambire, an expert on the two-string instrument the kologo, and Aaron Bebe Sukura, who plays the gyil, a percussion instrument not unlike the xylophone. The cool surfaces of the keyboards, samples, and percussion loops and the warm, natural tone of Atambire's and Sukura's performances complement one another remarkably well. While this music often revels in the contrasts between the various elements, the mutual respect between the artists is clear, and Kearney, Davis, Atambire, and Sukura remind us that it may be a cliché that music is a universal language, but most clichés get to be that way because they're true, and that's absolutely the case here. © Mark Deming /TiVo
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Alternative & Indie - Released April 24, 2020 | Verve Forecast

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Alternative & Indie - Released March 6, 2020 | Verve Forecast

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Ambient/New Age - Released November 22, 2019 | Verve Forecast

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Ambient/New Age - Released November 22, 2019 | Verve Forecast

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Pop - Released September 20, 2019 | Verve Forecast

Hi-Res Distinctions Qobuzissime
The American dream is an inexhaustible subject. It is approached head-on, sideways, from behind, above and below. It is the ultimate fuel for hordes of songwriters; even when they weren’t even born in America. As is the case for J.S. Ondara. This young Kenyan, who his label calls "the link between Tracy Chapman and Michael Kiwanuka" (an easy claim but not wrong), went there to try his luck. In 2013, Ondara dropped anchor at his aunt's house in Minneapolis. Having only previously known his native Nairobi, the musician took his songs into bars, clubs and even out onto the street, equipped with only his voice and a simple acoustic guitar, perhaps in the hope of becoming a third millennium Bob Dylan. The Dylan of The Freewheelin', his favourite record; Springsteen's Nebraska also being one of his top picks... But to limit himself to cloning those giants wouldn’t be very interesting. And Tales of America avoids that. First of all, J.S. Ondara has his own voice. His plaintive tone is a little androgynous and makes him truly unique. On the instrumental side, he adds some more daring flavours with the help of the great Andrew Bird, Griffin Goldsmith from Dawes and Joey Ryan from the Milk Carton Kids duo. In a divided America and a crisis-riddled world, J. S. Ondara's songs are more than just bandages, they’re powerful balms that penetrate the skin and warm the heart. This is a Qobuzissime that we needed... © Marc Zisman/Qobuz
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Pop - Released September 20, 2019 | Verve Forecast

The American dream is an inexhaustible subject. It is approached head-on, sideways, from behind, above and below. It is the ultimate fuel for hordes of songwriters; even when they weren’t even born in America. As is the case for J.S. Ondara. This young Kenyan, who his label calls "the link between Tracy Chapman and Michael Kiwanuka" (an easy claim but not wrong), went there to try his luck. In 2013, Ondara dropped anchor at his aunt's house in Minneapolis. Having only previously known his native Nairobi, the musician took his songs into bars, clubs and even out onto the street, equipped with only his voice and a simple acoustic guitar, perhaps in the hope of becoming a third millennium Bob Dylan. The Dylan of The Freewheelin', his favourite record; Springsteen's Nebraska also being one of his top picks... But to limit himself to cloning those giants wouldn’t be very interesting. And Tales of America avoids that. First of all, J.S. Ondara has his own voice. His plaintive tone is a little androgynous and makes him truly unique. On the instrumental side, he adds some more daring flavours with the help of the great Andrew Bird, Griffin Goldsmith from Dawes and Joey Ryan from the Milk Carton Kids duo. In a divided America and a crisis-riddled world, J. S. Ondara's songs are more than just bandages, they’re powerful balms that penetrate the skin and warm the heart. This is a Qobuzissime that we needed... © Marc Zisman/Qobuz
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Pop - Released August 16, 2019 | Verve Forecast

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Is this really 2019? If so, then Madison Cunningham must have been frozen in cryosleep in the mid-seventies and brought back to life four decades later. With Who Are You Now, this 22-year-old Californian releases a debut album of surprising mastery and maturity. While influenced by her predecessors Joni Mitchell, Rickie Lee Jones, Fiona Apple and even Feist, Cunningham never loses the vision of her own songs and personal sound. Her retro sound is therefore balanced on this record with a resolute timelessness. Brought up in a family of five girls, she picked up her first guitar when she was 7 and sang in church with her family at 12. She listened to other artists but mostly wrote and composed her own songs. It’s difficult to not be blown away by her lyricism; the tormented soul of a wandering old lady on an unstable path of sheer emotion. How many lives has this young musician who has opened shows the likes of the Punch Brothers, Andrew Bird, Amos Lee, Iron & Wine and even Calexico lived? With disillusioned, exacting confidence, an unforgiving feminist cry, Madison Cunningham is a folk-rock sovereign here to last. A true revelation. © Marc Zisman/Qobuz
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Pop - Released February 15, 2019 | Verve Forecast

Hi-Res Distinctions 4F de Télérama - Qobuzissime
The American dream is an inexhaustible subject. It is approached head-on, sideways, from behind, above and below. It is the ultimate fuel for hordes of songwriters; even when they weren’t even born in America. As is the case for J.S. Ondara. This young Kenyan, who his label calls "the link between Tracy Chapman and Michael Kiwanuka" (an easy claim but not wrong), went there to try his luck. In 2013, Ondara dropped anchor at his aunt's house in Minneapolis. Having only previously known his native Nairobi, the musician took his songs into bars, clubs and even out onto the street, equipped with only his voice and a simple acoustic guitar, perhaps in the hope of becoming a third millennium Bob Dylan. The Dylan of The Freewheelin', his favourite record; Springsteen's Nebraska also being one of his top picks... But to limit himself to cloning those giants wouldn’t be very interesting. And Tales of America avoids that. First of all, J.S. Ondara has his own voice. His plaintive tone is a little androgynous and makes him truly unique. On the instrumental side, he adds some more daring flavours with the help of the great Andrew Bird, Griffin Goldsmith from Dawes and Joey Ryan from the Milk Carton Kids duo. In a divided America and a crisis-riddled world, J. S. Ondara's songs are more than just bandages, they’re powerful balms that penetrate the skin and warm the heart. This is a Qobuzissime that we needed... © Marc Zisman/Qobuz
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Rock - Released October 12, 2018 | Verve Forecast

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Jazz - Released January 1, 2011 | Verve Forecast

Distinctions Le top 6 JAZZ NEWS
Apparently, Etta James' musical career ends with The Dreamer. The legendary vocalist announced a few months back that this would be her final album; she's retiring from music in order to deal with serious medical issues. Co-produced by James, Josh Sklair, and her sons Danto and Sametto, The Dreamer's 11 tracks offer an imperfect but utterly worthy portrait of the places she's been musically with a couple of selections that reveal her dictum that "every song is a blues." Her signature meld of soul, blues, rhythm & blues, rock, and country are all on display here. The production underscores her lifelong commitment to these styles and suits the material at large. Her musical accompanists include not only her co-producers, but guitarists Leo Nocentelli and Big Terry de Rouen, saxophonist Jimmy Z., trombonist Kraig Kilby, and trumpeter Lee Thornburg. Ms. James' choice of material is rigorous even if two of its selections are questionable: the cover of Guns N' Roses' "Welcome to the Jungle" doesn't lend itself well to the choogling boogie arrangement here; and the funkified reading of contemporary country stars Little Big Town's "Boondocks" sounds like she tried too hard to make it fit. These cuts aside, the rest of the material is vintage; it reflects the work of Ms. James' influences and contemporaries. Her readings of Otis Redding's "Cigarettes & Coffee" and "Champagne & Wine," Bobby "Blue" Bland's "Dreamer," Bob Montgomery's country-pop standard "Misty Blue," Ray Charles' "In the Evening," Johnny "Guitar" Watson's "That's the Chance You Take" and "Too Tired," and Little Milton's "Let Me Down Easy" all contain within them not only their original traces, but the musical experience necessary to bring their subtler, deeper meanings to the fore. She re-creates these songs not as mere touchstones or mementos from a career, but as signposts to the living, breathing tradition that bears the signature and considerable influence of her life upon them. The Dreamer is a fitting -- if not perfect -- bookend to one of American popular music's most iconic lives. © Thom Jurek /TiVo
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Jazz - Released January 1, 2011 | Verve Forecast

It's an interesting question: would Boney James have recorded Contact if he'd never had a car accident that damaged his teeth and fractured his jaw? In May, 2010, he was rear-ended while stopped by a driver traveling at high speed. Though he was back on-stage in three weeks, the accident caused James to think back on where he'd been in his career. He reflected on the period he spent backing the Isley Brothers, Morris Day, Randy Crawford, and Teena Marie before his solo offering, 1992's Trust, catapulted him onto the contemporary jazz scene. Contact -- his debut for Verve Forecast -- indulges those influences. James produced and co-wrote every cut here, including the four vocal numbers. The first of these, "Close to You," features a stellar performance by Donell Jones; it is one of the album's true highlights. James plays plays his soprano, interweaving those silky vocal lines with gorgeous fills. Former Destiny's Child member LeToya Luckett sings on the lilting ballad "When I Had the Chance," Heather Headley appears on the slippery-grooved Latin-tinged "I'm Waiting," and Mario does a magnificent job on the dancefloor stepper "That Look on Your Face." James' own chops are fine as ever On the instrumental title track, he lets a slightly angular, syncopated, B-3-led rhythm section groove assert itself before smoothly entering and laying down the melody amid Rob Bacon's guitar fills and a bright-sounding, tightly arranged horn section. On "Cry," Dean Parks plays a nylon-string guitar, giving the cut an exotic flamenco feel before James breathily lets the melody flow from his tenor. With percussion work by drummer Teddy Campbell and Lenny Castro on congas and timbales, it streams forth in a rich, sensually arrayed meld of colors and textures. "There and Back" is a soul ballad where the saxophonist is the singer. It's lithe, silky groove is colored by hand percussion as James, with his canny sense of timing, tells a story on his horn. On "Everything Matters," the laid-back album closer, he plays tenor and alto, aided by Parks on electric guitar, Jimmy Johnson's keys, Campbell, and Castro. It's sweet and slow, but not sentimental, one almost hear Ron Isley singing to its melody. Contact is a bright spot in James' catalog, and underscores his welcome return to recording. © Thom Jurek /TiVo
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Pop - Released January 1, 2011 | Verve Forecast

It's fair to ask what kind of solo album Daryl Hall would make after 14 years and a world of changes. Since 1997's Can't Stop Dreaming, Hall reunited with John Oates, cut records, and toured globally. He ended a 30-year romantic and creative partnership, got married, became a stepdad, and created Live from Daryl's House, a homemade internet TV show that went into national syndication in 2007. In 2010, four days into these recording sessions, his producer and best friend T-Bone Wolk died suddenly of a heart attack (the album, dedicated to him, contains his final recorded performances). Laughing Down Crying is instantly recognizable, yet ambitious and understandably poignant. Hall plays loads of instruments here; he co-produced with guitarist Paul Pesco and keyboardist Greg Bieck. These ten songs reflect the range of music Hall's recorded, been influenced by, and encountered while doing his internet show. He doesn't shy away from what made him and Oates household names in the '80s; he embraces the songcraft but doesn't indulge in nostalgia. The title track opens with an acoustically driven folk-rock number; the melody is pure Hall. It grabs the listener instantly with its strummed acoustic guitars and laid-back backbeats. The vocal harmonies are pure '70s rock classicism in the refrain, and in them is a tight, rich hook. "Talking to You (Is Like Talking to Myself)" is more uptempo, its hook dead center. The dual harmony lead vocals touch on late-'80s and early-'90s pop but pushes past them. "Lifetime of Love" is an acoustically driven, blue-eyed soul number, with horns and a backing chorus that push Hall to soar over them, and his voice just gets better with age. The opening of "Eyes for You (Ain't No Doubt About It)" is a spacy, nocturnal, funky soul tune with a babymaker bassline and loop. "Save Me" employs slick gospel with an unforgettable chorus. "Wrong Side of History" would serve Hall & Oates well in the 21st century. Hall's interest in modern production and songwriting is revealed in "Get Out of the Way," with its big drum loops, wall of guitars, and Hall's voice calling up the musical storm around him. "Crash & Burn" is a gorgeous acoustic pop ballad, and set closer "Problem with You" has Hall taking on the blues via his Philly soul roots. Admittedly, Laughing Down Crying is comforting and familiar. That said, it offers plenty of proof that Hall is restless and still growing musically. It's the work of a master musician doing what he does best -- writing and performing beautifully crafted pop songs in terrific form -- while proving that not only does he have plenty left to say in the new millennium, but has everything it takes to compete in the marketplace. © Thom Jurek /TiVo
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R&B - Released January 1, 2011 | Verve Forecast

Turn Me Loose was Ledisi’s most commercially successful release, topping Billboard’s R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart and peaking within the Top 20 of the Billboard 200. The 2009 album also earned two Grammy nominations to go with the pair earned by 2007’s Lost & Found. On her fourth Verve Forecast disc, the singer continues to work beside Rex Rideout, Ivan Barias, and Carvin Haggins while adding Salaam Remi, Mike City, and Chuck Harmony -- all of whom are among adult contemporary R&B’s most prominent and successful studio hands -- and a handful of up-and-comers. “Hate Me” is a hot Southern soul ballad and “Shut Up” packs forthright attitude with a roomy but unshakeable beat, yet the album does not quite have the bite of Turn Me Loose. It could use a couple throw-you-around-the-room rockers in the vein of Turn Me Loose's “Runnin’” and “Knockin’,” although some listeners will be so struck by the sustained high level of confidence and grace that it won’t be an issue. © Andy Kellman /TiVo
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Vocal Jazz - Released January 1, 2010 | Verve Forecast

Distinctions Sélection Les Inrocks
On her fourth album, Lizz Wright returns to her gospel roots after writing her own material on 2008's The Orchard. Typically, however, this is hardly a traditional collection of faith-based songs. Wright does include a medley of old spirituals including "Up Above My Head," and she closes the proceedings with "Amazing Grace." But her idea of gospel is highly eclectic, also encompassing the Gladys Knight & the Pips hit "I've Got to Use My Imagination" and Jimi Hendrix's "In from the Storm," neither of which seem particularly religious, as well as Eric Clapton's "Presence of the Lord." Wright also draws material from a clutch of black female contemporaries and influences including Me'Shell Ndegéocello, Bernice Johnson Reagon, Joan Wasser, and Angélique Kidjo as she ranges from neo-soul to African-styled folk-rock music. The disparate sources are united by Wright's distinctive and powerful alto voice, which anchors the music and provides a stylistic through-line, no matter what the nominal genre. This is an unusually somber type of gospel, as Wright favors moodiness over fervor in her statements of faith. That is especially true at the end, when she presents "Amazing Grace" in an ambient, funereal mood. Listeners should expect to be moved by these performances, but not to be cheered. © William Ruhlmann /TiVo
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Rock - Released January 1, 2010 | Verve Forecast

Ah, women…where would singer/songwriters (or at least most male singer/songwriters) be without them? Countless songs have been written over the years about the search for the perfect gal -- and what to do if you should ever find her -- and Teddy Thompson's fifth disc, Bella, is a loose concept album about the joys and pitfalls of the pursuit of the beautiful woman. Teaming with producer David Kahne (whose credits run the gamut from Wilco to Tony Bennett) and backed by Thompson's road band (Daniel Mintseris on keys, Jeff Hill on bass, and Ethan Eubanks on drums) along with a few guests (among them Teddy's father Richard Thompson and Dave Schramm of the Schramms), Bella recalls the poppier sound Teddy was reaching for on 2008's A Piece of What You Need, but this time the results sound and feel a good bit warmer and more organic. Kahne makes Thompson and his accompanists sound as polished and professional as you could hope for without squeezing the life out of their performances, and the subtle but well-executed string charts add an elegant melodic veneer to tunes like "Delilah," "Gotta Have Someone," and "Over and Over" that serves them well. Kahne is also smart enough to know Teddy Thompson is the star of this show, and he presents his headliner at his best advantage; Thompson's vocals are excellent, hitting the right note on the swaggering "Looking for a Girl," the self-depreciating "The One I Can't Have," and the lovelorn "Take Care of Yourself," and if the songs aren't quite as rich as what Thompson offered on his self-titled debut or Separate Ways, he's not afraid to write lyrics about love that consider how it can hurt as much as it can heal. Thompson can put an artful barb into his stories when he wants while wrapping them around melodies that are evocative and hooky at once. Teddy Thompson doesn't answer all his questions about women on Bella (of course, for most guys, that would take a box set), but the ones he ponders here are smart and come from the heart, and it makes for an album that will please longtime fans while encouraging newcomers to hear what he has to offer. © Mark Deming /TiVo
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Alternative & Indie - Released January 1, 2010 | Verve Forecast

Aqualung occupies the curious space between Coldplay and Jamie Cullum, a singer/songwriter with serious aspirations but a bent toward populism -- a bent that he can barely control, nor should he, because as Magnetic North, his sixth album, illustrates, he’s at his best when he’s broadest, writing songs with skyscraping hooks that are given soft, shimmering productions. He often favors pulsating arpeggios and icy crescendos, just like Chris Martin’s crew, but the record takes off when things get bouncier, like on the quite terrific opener “New Friend” -- which sounds like a long-lost collaboration between Beck and Elton John -- and the chipper “Fingertip.” These are as good of an indication of the Los Angeles origin of Magnetic North as the songs that directly reference SoCal (“California,” “Hummingbird,’ “Sundowning”) and they showcase Aqualung at his best: an artful yet melodic heir to piano-driven ‘70s singer/songwriters. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo