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Reviews of CDs by Macy Gray, The Blue Hawaiians and Pat Donohue

CD Reviews

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Macy Gray, "Macy Gray On How Life Is"The Blue Hawaiians "Savage Night"Pat Donohue, "Back Roads"

Play These Songs
"Why Didn't You Call Me""Do Something""Caligula"

Real Audio RequiredMacy Gray, "Macy Gray On How Life Is" (Epic) — There's a nifty little undercurrent of a buzz going on in music right now, and its name is Macy Gray. This 29-year-old singer's squeaky, honey-touched vocals are drawing comparisons to no less than Billie Holiday Herself. But don't let that scare you off. Gray's sound is such a mixture of old-school soul, R&B, funk, hip-hop and rock 'n' roll, that listening to this CD, I surmise, is like flipping through her parents' record collection: You're going to hear Stevie Wonder, Sly and the Family Stone and Rufus for sure. Heck, I even hear a little Dinah Washington in that raspy, sexy voice.

Songs like "Why Didn't You Call Me," "Sex-O-Matic" and especially the ready-for-radio "I Try" will stick in your head after one listen. Her lyric writing is at times open and brutally honest, but I found myself cringing at some of the over-the-top sexual lyrics, not because I was offended, but because they seemed so unnecessary. There's enough sex suggested in the sinewy grooves themselves. Still, Macy Gray's debut is a stellar one that defies the music industry's need to cram artists into tidy little genres. Simply put, "Macy Gray On How Life Is" sounds like nothing else out there right now. How many albums can you say that about?

— Janet Giampietro


-->Play These Songs"Savage Night""Flesh & Soul""Shakin' All Over"

Real Audio RequiredThe Blue Hawaiians "Savage Night" (Interscope) — Man, this is cooool. A little surf music, a Hammond organ, a steel guitar, that ultra-mellow Chris Isaak-style voice, and you're in a smoky club where the neon sign in the window flashes and the big-collared hipsters eye the crowd from a dark corner.

The songs have such a mellow groove that you could slide "Savage Night" in at 2 a.m. or play it for Sunday-morning coffee. But really, listen to the words — and the organ and guitar playing off each other — and you discover the eeriness, the twisted, lurking spookiness of the Blue Hawaiians.

It's lounge music bent on making trouble. It's like the song "Highlife" says: "Eden is a jungle and it's getting wild/So why don't we go down in style?"

It's weird. It's tempting. Why not?

— Lon Wagner, The Virginian-Pilot



Play These Songs"Summertime""My Funny Valentine""All Soul"

Real Audio Required-->Pat Donohue, "Back Roads" (Bluesky) — This 1996 release by "Prairie Home Companion" veteran Pat Donohue is acoustic guitar music at its entertaining and wide-ranging best. Donohue appears, Sunday, Sept. 26, at Grace Street Theatre, and if this CD is an indication, the performance will ring with instrumental magic and vocal warmth to spare.

Clear, light and clean as a lakefront breeze, this former National Finger Picking Guitar Champion effortlessly rolls through 12 tunes that celebrate everything from true love, to the genius of Chet Atkins, to the prowess of Donohue's favorite baseball slugger. Minnesota native Donohue also takes special lyrical delight in reminding Southerners that New Orleans and the Delta may have their share of Mississippi River charms but the majesty actually starts from up in his neck of the woods. Whether solo or backed by harmonica, bass and drums, the combo of Donohue's sparkling guitar tones and his laid-back vocals make for a most friendly pairing. Call 231-2547 for details on his performance.

— Ames Arnold

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