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Joan Armatrading

This Charming Life

(429/SLG; US: 30 Mar 2010; UK: 8 Mar 2010)

The subtext of This Charming Life is Joan Armatrading’s autonomy, and her creative freedom to record however, whatever, and whenever she pleases. This Charming Life is a modest improvement over the relative disappointment and head-scratching premise and execution of 2007’s Into the Blues. This time, Armatrading isn’t burdened by the weight of carrying a theme through the whole album. Instead, she’s released a musical statement that brings all of her talents—writing, playing, producing, and maximizing the idiosyncrasies of her malleable voice—into sharp focus.


However, for those unfamiliar with the artist’s oeuvre, This Charming Life might best be appreciated after digging through Armatrading’s earlier discography to experience the full evolution of her sound. Her 2003 album Lover’s Speak remains the very best of her albums from the past decade. On its own merits, This Charming Life is a mostly solid effort. The set is bolstered by the melodic rock of “Two Tears”, the shifting musical environs on “People Who Win”, and Armatrading’s masterful guitar work on “Virtual Reality” and “Best Dress On”. This Charming Life will inevitably find fans from within the artist’s devoted audience, but there is enough good material here to also satisfy the most curious of new listeners.

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Christian John Wikane is a NYC-based journalist and music essayist. He's a Contributing Editor for PopMatters, where he's interviewed artists ranging from Paul McCartney to Janelle Monae. For the past three years, he's penned liner notes for more than 100 CD re-issues by legends of R&B, rock, pop, dance, and jazz. Since 2008, he's produced and hosted Three of Hearts: A Benefit for The Family Center at Joe's Pub. He is the author of the five-part oral history Casablanca Records: Play It Again (PopMatters, 2009). Follow him on Twitter @CJWikaneNYC. 


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26 Feb 2012
A riveting live album from the constantly great Joan Armatrading.
By PopMatters Staff
17 Jul 2007
"Just a spoon full of sugar helps the medicine, go down .." Julie Andrews sang in Mary Poppins. Indeed, a bitter dose of angry words in need of saying, and set to a beat, quite effectively gets heard.
2 May 2007
While it's reassuring that Armatrading continues to write and record, it's doubtful that she'll earn any new fans strictly on the merits of this release.
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