Classic American soul music revival comes from two British artists

Reviews of new releases by Martina McBride, Blonde Redhead, James Morrison, and Paolo Nutini.

Blonde Redhead – 23 (4AD): Kazu Makino and twin brothers Amedeo and Simone Pace have been playing as Blonde Redhead since the early 1990s, which makes them eligible – under the bylaws of indie rock – for cult status. But the trio has never been content to regurgitate the tried-and-true; they've produced six albums, none of them alike. The seventh, "23," doesn't buck that trend. The thing is all achromatic glow – a dozen sharp shards of post-punk thrum, stirred-up mod, and lilting pop lullaby. The difference is that "23" shirks the challenging, needling orchestrations of previous efforts. This disc, in other words, positively floats. Grade: A–
– Matthew Shaer

Martina Mcbride – Waking Up Laughing (RCA Records): Much of Martina McBride's success has come by applying her dynamic vocal talent to other people's work. But McBride produces this record herself, and co-writes the best three tracks. The album's first single, "Anyway," is already working its way up the country music charts. Another inspirational track, "Beautiful Again," juxtaposes a cheerful melody of hope with the story of a life of abandonment and abuse. And the orchestral "How I Feel," finely meshes a string section with a driving rhythm guitar. Grade: A
– Vic Roberts

James Morrison – Undiscovered (Universal): Sounding at times like a young Stevie Wonder, this sandy-haired singer from rural England has become an instant star in his homeland, especially with the ladies. Equally at home with soulful workouts and soaring, orchestrated ballads, he sings with the life-worn voice of an artist far beyond his tender years. There's nothing special about cliché-ridden lyrics such as, "I've got to turn and walk away, I don't have anything left to say," but Morrison manages to invest each song with the passion of a true believer. The album's infectious melodies and stirring choruses are already commanding a wide radio spectrum. His latest single suggests, "I'm not lost, no, no, just undiscovered." Millions will soon beg to differ. Grade: A–
– John Kehe

Paolo Nutini – These Streets (Atlantic): This 20-year-old Scot (Italian dad, Scottish mom) may look like another boy band heartthrob, but he has the goods to be around for a long time. A more versatile singer than James Morrison, he, too, possesses a scuffed-up soul man's voice that conjures up "Dock of the Bay" era Otis and should send Justin Timberlake into a jealous sulk. Uptempo rockers such as "Jenny Don't Be Hasty" and the infectious radio hit "New Shoes" have put him on the charts, but ballads such as the aching "Last Request" could take its place with the best of Bill Withers or Al Green. The acoustic-driven backing band adds just the right touches of funk and a smattering of strings, leaving Nutini's striking vocals on center stage – where he surely belongs. Grade: A
– J.K.

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