Carrie Ann Buchanan may have the best pure vocal tone in Houston. When properly used, her voice is truly an expressive instrument: It soars, rolls, swings and dives, melding an obvious jazz influence with a roots-rock soul. Strong Wind, the debut CD from Buchanan's stalwart band the Apocalyptics, is chock-full of moments that prove the musical acuity of Buchanan, the Apocalyptics and the studio musicians who contributed their talents. But it's difficult to listen to the sublime "If You Only Knew" be followed by the ill-advised foray into country "Sometimes Ur Up." "Madhouse Blues," though, is perhaps Strong Wind's most tantalizing moment, as Buchanan's voice dances across a wall of tasteful percussion and juicy guitars, with a teasing harmonica at all the appropriate moments. At 15 tracks spread over 57 minutes, the endeavor could have used some editing; Strong Wind seems hamstrung by the debut-album urge to cram as much as possible into that first record, a lack of focus that ultimately holds back the album. The playing is strong, with few missteps, though at times the mix seems awfully busy. Gripes aside, Strong Wind cements the Apocalyptics' skills and will leave listeners hoping the band uses the lessons of their debut to make the sort of album that truly does them justice.
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