Local Wire

k.d. lang

Talented songwriter k.d. lang clearly has learned a few things from spending so much time around Tony Bennett. The two have been recording together since they released 2002's A Wonderful World, and on her latest disc, you can hear the influence of Bennett in her approach to singing. Throughout Watershed, she uses sparse instrumentation and sings by taking advantage of the softer side of her voice, while mixing influences garnered from jazz, country, and Brazilian music. On the countrified "I Dream of Spring," Teddy Borowiecki's string arrangement provides just the right background to lyrics that speak of the singer's longing for spring after being hidden in "cold, dark places" for far too long. She seems to borrow from present-day Joni Mitchell on "Coming Home," with lyrics that reflect on romantic experiences that have come and gone and what you learn from them over the years. Another memorable moment is "Flame of the Uninspired," a haunting tune with a blues-meets-bossa feel that speaks of broken hearts and one's need to rebound. Listen also to "Upstream," which contains a touch of George Martin-like psychedelics on the string arrangement and also a touch of Brazilian bass and drums. On Watershed, lang shows she doesn't need lavish orchestras or studio gimmicks to convey her message — many of the songs were laid on the first track, sometimes showing a rawer side of her voice. The disc is both enjoyable and puzzling, leaving fans wondering how the songs will sound in a live setting.
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Ernest Barteldes