If you’re a fan of bluesy folk along the lines of Be Good Tanyas then please seek out Tori Sparks. The new album, her follow-up to 2004’s Rivers + Roads, opens with the sultry “Cold War” that could go on for far longer than it’s three minutes and change. Sparks could be mistaken for the younger, sassier sister of Chrissie Hynde during the gorgeous waltz of “Out of the Void” which gathers steam in spite of its rather winding chorus. She even outdoes herself with the first eye-opening and jaw-dropping acoustic pop gem “Under the Rug”. The singer rarely takes the easy way out as is the case during the tender, touching and string-accented “Free” which has her hitting some sweet notes in the upper registers. Sparks needs little in the way of effects or layering to get her music across, resulting in strong numbers like “Poison Well” shining from the opening notes to the closing blues-meets-roots-meets-pop fade out. The quirky tune of this lot has to be the awkward but appealing title track which sounds like it would be perfect music for strippers at Lilith Fair. Perhaps the highlight here is how strong and fabulous “Caged Bird” comes across, mixing Hynde’s vocals with an arrangement that Lucinda Williams might be interested in.
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