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k.d. lang

Sing It Loud – 2011 (Nonesuch)

Reviewed by Brian Baker

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CDs by k.d. lang

Anyone who witnessed k.d. lang's 1986 American television debut on Late Night with David Letterman will never forget the sight of the Canadian firecracker kicking up her heels in a gingham dress, belting out the electrifying Turn Me Round while her band, the Reclines, provided an incendiary soundtrack and tore up the floorboards behind her. It was a frenetic performance that was ultimately paid off by the 1987 release of "Angel with a Lariat," which beautifully displayed lang's incredible range and her adoration of Patsy Cline.

Within a year, lang dropped her first solo album, the torchy "Shadowland," and although she kept the Reclines around for a couple of more albums, the dye was fairly well cast for lang to become a country/pop chanteuse of the first magnitude.

With her latest, "Sing It Loud," lang returns to a band atmsophere for the first time since the end of the Reclines. Credited to lang and the Siss Boom Bang, the music offers a perfect balance of lang's early raucous, one-take spontaneity and the carefully crafted pop balladry that she's polished to a brilliant finish over the past two decades.

Her love of Roy Orbison immediately comes to the forefront with the album's first three tracks, I Confess, A Sleep with No Dreaming and the Jimmy Webb-tinged The Water's Edge, which gives way to the shimmering Memphis soul of Perfect Word and the Stonesy shuffle of the exquisite Sugar Buzz.

Clearly, there's nothing here that erupts with the manic energy of Turn Me Round, but there is an obvious band vibe on the album, as on the gorgeous melancholy of Habit of Mind and lang and SBB's rippling Angelo Badalamenti take on Talking Heads' Heaven.

"Sing It Loud" shows a facet of lang's musical persona that has gone untapped for much too long a time.