Paul Rishell and Annie Raines - I Want You to Know (Tone-Cool Records): The recent surge in the popularity of blues coincides with the maturing of a new generation of blues masters. Paul Rishell's soulful vocals over his adept National guitar playing show a master at work. When Annie Raines adds her harp, the combination is magical. Their version of the spiritual "I Shall Not Be Moved" is inspired and inspiring. Those preferring a postwar sound will favor the five electric cuts. Annie's distorted harmonica tone wails with emotion while guest guitarist Ronnie Earl rocks the house.
-- Jef Scoville
Midnight Oil - Breathe (Sony): Either Midnight Oil spent a lot of time near water while making their 10th album, or they were mighty thirsty. The Australian band deviates from their socially conscious lyrics and concentrates more on relationships gone awry. And they seem to be looking for redemption in water: "In the rain falling on my shame it falls, yes it falls" (from "In the Rain"). The opening song "Underwater" is probably the only one worth listening to. If you're expecting a "Beds Are Burning" type of song (i.e. upbeat) you won't find it here. Instead of fresh spring water, most of the tunes are stuck in a muddy pond.
-- Lisa Leigh Parney
Carol Sloane - The Songs Sinatra Sang (Concord): Vocalist Carol Sloane doesn't rely on gimmickry or theatrics to get the message of the lyrics across. On this release, she takes the words, adds her interpretation, and comes forth with a straight-forward delivery of 13 standard tunes identified with Frank Sinatra. She uses her impeccable phrasing to revive even the old Johnny Mercer chestnut "One For My Baby." Veteran tenorist Frank Wess supplies his thoughtful counterpoint to her singing, and pianist Bill Charlap graces all tracks.
-- Dick Bogle