Yeah, the title track of Lauderdale's latest release, Whisper, would certainly be better if he could get his singing voice to "whisper." And yeah, ending "Take Me Down a Path" with a couple of bars of "nah, nah, nah's" might be a wiser choice for a singer with a more musical instrument. But they're both fine performances. Same goes, in fact, for nearly every one of the album's Buck-Owens-meets-new-country cuts. And if an instant honky-tonk classic like "She Used to Say That to Me" doesn't help Lauderdale crack Nashville on his own accord, then we can at least take solace in the knowledge that George Strait will likely sing the hell out of it on his next album. (*** 1/2)

-- David Cantwell

All Saints
All Saints

It was bound to happen. Just when the world seemed thoroughly immersed in Spicy marinade, along comes another cadre of photogenic, harmonizing Brits to steal the Girls' flashy, prefab throne -- if only for the time being. But the four lovely lasses in All Saints aren't as homogenous as they might appear.

Much like the Spice Girls, All Saints have a racially diverse makeup (meaning they have one African-American member). And while they too have the necessary fashion-mag appeal, there is a sly sultriness to their glamour that implies a more forceful sexuality. In terms of the music, All Saints, their self-titled debut, sounds unquestionably black. While the Spicers gladly hog the middle ground between cheery, white-bread pop and the sassy urban tip, the Saints stay surprisingly true to the streetwise heart and soul of the best R&B.

"Never Ever," All Saints' opening track and a number one hit in England, mixes blues and gospel, making the most of its church-organ bump-and-grind and Sunday-morning testament to lost love. The first single, "I Know Where It's At," lifts the piano opening from Steely Dan's "The Fez" and attaches a substantial hip-hop groove supplied by producer Karl Gordon. "Heaven," co-produced by Neneh Cherry associate Cameron McVey, and "Take the Key" also check in with considerable heft. Ditto "Under the Bridge," a pointed ode to drugs and desolation tucked into the guise of a funky heartbreak number.

One of the disc's few letdowns occurs when All Saints momentarily lapse into Spice Girls territory on "Let's Get Started." Its whirling, automated beats simply fail to register. Better to keep it dark, ladies. (***)

-- Craig D. Lindsey

Press Ratings

***** Historic
**** Great
*** Worthy
** So-so
* Lame

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