With Sing it Loud, her first studio disc in three years, k.d lang is, in one sense, revisiting her roots. She's backed by a new, full-time band, siss boom bang, that recalls, in spirit if not sound, the exhilarating work she created at the start of her career with her original band, The Reclines. But she's also breaking new ground as a songwriter and producer collaborating on this elegant yet rough-around-the-edges set with multi-instrumentalist Joe Pisapia, previously a member of jam-band stalwarts Guster, and penning most of these tunes with Pisapia and her new band-mates Daniel Clarke and Joshua Grange.
Lang returned to Nashville - a town that originally embraced her iconoclastic blend of country and pop when she released Shadowlands back in 1988 -- for the Sing it Loud sessions, recording it at Pisapia's backyard studio, where he'd also tracked Guster's 2010 Easy Wonderful. She and Pisapia keep the sound impressively in the moment, retaining a palpable live-band feel throughout. Sing it Loud embraces both the dramatic and easygoing; lead-off track, and first single, "I Confess," is all torch and twang; this impassioned, first-person narrative about romantic longing and reconciliation - proving once again that the best part of breaking up is indeed making up -- reaches a stirring, Roy Orbison-like crescendo of strings. While lang's previous studio album, 2008's Watershed, featured strikingly understated vocal performances, alternately contemplative and sensual, this time she returns to belting it out whenever the songs, and the emotions, demand. On "Sugar Buzz," lang starts off gently but thrillingly builds up to a bluesy fervor, exploring the upper reaches of her range.
Conversely, on tracks like the inspirational "Sing it Loud" and the gently nostalgic "Inglewood," she keeps her performances softer and more intimate, though no less compelling; these impeccably arranged, small-combo tracks recall the classic country-rock feel of fellow Canadian Neil Young's Harvest. She also offers a graceful rendition of the Talking Heads' "Heaven," another thoughtfully chosen cover that she immediately makes her own. At this point, lang's way with borrowed material is downright legendary: her breathtaking performance of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" was the high point of the 2010 Winter Olympics opening ceremony in Vancouver, seen by a worldwide television audience.
Looking back on 25 years of lang's recordings upon the 2010 release of the compilation Recollection, a BBC critic noted, "lang's vocal performances are models of economy and grace. Her warm tones are pure yet never bland, laced with organic trails of grit and smoke." Tony Bennett has put it even more succinctly: "She's the best singer of her generation." With siss boom bang, lang has clearly discovered kindred spirits and, on Sing it Loud, they help her deliver some of the most self-assured material of her career. Lang plans to hit the road this spring with siss boom bang and their brand new songs.
Lang,K.D. & Siss Boom Bang