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Jeff Arundel, Bomb

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Jeff Arundel
Bomb

Purple Records

Jeff Arundel has been through the ringer. Since we last heard from the Midwestern singer-songwriter, on 2005's Ghost Party, he's gone through a painful divorce, the details of which are documented in the almost uncomfortably frank, and very raw, acoustic opener.

"She let someone inside her bed / Someone we both knew," Arundel sings on Bomb's title track. "Now the story ends."

The story doesn't end, though. In fact the jarring guitar solo that immediately follows those lyrics represents the beginning of an excellent effort born of Arundel's heartsickness.

"One Day," the album's poppier, more polished second track, shows Arundel looking forward to better days, when he'll see the spring, and sing, again. Perhaps not coincidentally, he namechecks his own 1995 debut, Ride The Ride, over what turns out to be the sort of mellow feel-good anthem Adult Album Alternative radio loves.

"It's Okay," on the other hand, is another earnest track built around a few simple chords and the best vocals of the album. It's the sort of rootsy, thoughtful, totally down-to-earth song you want to hear from a singer-songwriter like Arundel, a talented man who in the past has struggled to find a strong theme to tie his work together.

"Angel Posse," Arundel's venture into blue-eyed acousto-funk, might appeal to folks who can stomach Jason Mraz, but the track, seemingly a thank you to some of the close friends who helped him through his trevails, didn't work for me. A mini-rap from a guest singer halfway through just shows how far Arundel is from what he does best.

On the other hand, a punchy little riff from the Sting playbook sets a perfect tone for "Saved" and a tiny bit of what sounds like accordion makes a strong focal point in an otherwise refrain-less song.

Just as the title track makes an appropriate opener, "Corner of My Heart," a soulful piano ballad where Arundel duets with newcomer Ashleigh Still makes a fitting end. It's a song about lifelong love, and Still's rich yet vulnerable voice, which recalls Regina Spektor, steals the show. That's perhaps the most powerful statement from Arundel. To stand aside let a woman take the reigns on the closer to his big breakup album? If that's not a sign of healing -- of recovering from the Bomb -- what is?

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