Nnenna Freelon, Better Than Anything: This greatest hits package highlights the work of five-time Grammy award winning jazz singer Nnenna Freelon. If you want true, vocal jazz stylings, Freelon is the woman for you. Her voice is astounding. Words cannot replace the experience of actually tuning in. From bebop (The title track) to samba swirls (“I Won’t Dance”, “Straighten up and Fly Right) to passionate ballads (“Ooh Child” and “One Child at a Time”), Better Than Anything is aptly titled. (Concord Music) ~ 4 Stars.
Luke Jackson, And Then Some: After almost a decade of writer’s block, Luke Jackson escaped to Sweden to arouse his creativity through the company of close friends – producer Christoffer Lundquist (Roxette, Cardigans), drummer Jens Jansson (Brainpool) and bassist Magnus Borjeson (Cardigans) – all who helped Jackson piece together one of this year’s most joyful and instantly lovable pop albums. Moreover, And Then Some is taken to the next level through stunning string arrangements by Robert Kirby (Nick Drake, Elvis Costello and John Cale) on key tracks: “This Life”, “All I Can Do” and “The Fear”. (Urban Myth Recordings) ~3 ½ Stars
Marilyn Scott, Every Time We Say Goodbye: Marilyn Scott’s new album is a gorgeous release that will tug at your heartstrings and warm your ears with sweet, soft melodies. Fans of Norah Jones’ Come Away with Me will instantly love this record as it has the same soft production value. For example, on the opening title track you can hear the breath of tenor sax player Ken Peplowski and the rattle of Willie Jones’ snare drum will give you shivers. In addition, Scott’s airy, deeply passionate vocals will stop you in your tracks as she burns through some well-thought out covers. A good choice for easy listening and relaxation. (Venus Recordings) ~ 4 Stars
Ryan Neilson, Four Walls: Nova Scotia native Ryan Neilson’s debut is a light pop record that sticks to an acoustic pop formula. However, unlike his major influences (John Mayer), Neilson’s mid-tempo songs are only somewhat catchy and multiple listens are purely a test of patience. (Independent) ~ 2 Stars.