A Girl Called Eddy
With all the pop tarts and post-adolescents masquerading as R&B singers jiggling around, the emergence of A Girl Called Eddy is cause for celebration for fans of timeless, classic pop. Her name is Erin Moran. She's a Jersey Girl now based in NYC. She's lived some, and her debut album sounds like it. Moran's songs resonate with wisdom and emotional clarity. She sings about heartbreak and hope, love and loss, bad endings and new beginnings, with words that are poetic but not sly or coy, not embroidered with irony. They're the kind of words that the likes of Dionne Warwick, Dusty Springfield and Karen Carpenter turned into enduring truths.

Moran sings her tunes in a dusky smolder filled with sensual ennui, filigreed with finely gauged flights into falsetto or a controlled soar. Even better are her melodies — lush and romantic. Several songs call to mind Burt Bacharach and/or Jimmy Webb, without perhaps the same level of harmonic sophistication.

Producer Richard Hawley of Pulp caresses the songs with lovely flourishes — acoustic and shimmering electric guitars, vibraphone, naked piano, well-measured strings and even subtle horns — all of which enhance the tunes' intrinsic beauty. The arrangements work subliminally, always serving to focus attention on the songs.

A Girl Called Eddy is not a perfect album: A couple of up-tempo songs lean too much toward conventional rock. "The Long Goodbye," especially, skews a little Sheryl Crow, although it's more like something Sheryl Crow wishes she could've written. And I'd like to see Moran break more often from breathy restraint and explore the range and expressiveness of her voice. But in the end these are minor quibbles, and I expect this disc to log considerable time in my CD player over the coming months. Join me?

Oh, one more thing: Erin Moran is so much more distinguished, and reflective of this music, than A Girl Called Eddy. (www.agirlcallededdy.com)


The Tipping Point
With their sixth major label CD, The Roots continue to refine their tricky mix of social commentary, street cred, old-school rap, boho feel, pop punch and deep funk. The Roots keep their jam-happy stage inclinations in check on The Tipping Point, opting instead to mate rapper Black Thought's potent blasts of verbiage with pop/R&B hooks and bits and pieces of sonic experimentalism. The opening track, "Star," chops up the chorus of Sly & the Family Stone's "Everybody Is a Star" and sprinkles it throughout Black Thought's insistent flow. It works, people. A tandem of songs, "Web" and "Boom!," pay homage to early rap. On the first, Black Thought's blazing braggadocio shotguns over nothing but ?uestlove's uber-funky drum track. Tipping Point also includes its share of melodies, the most infectious of which are the smooth "Stay Cool" and the slightly dub-ified "Guns are Drawn." The disc ends with "Why (What's Goin On?)," a nearly 17-minute melange that shows The Roots' versatility. The piece starts with a beguiling slice of mid-tempo R&B (big ups to the slinky rhythm guitar part); then after a 20-second false ending, it slides into a crunky free-for-all; a quick fade leads into a snappy section of layered vocalese, where Black Thought and ?uestlove trade vocal and drum licks, which evolve into a jazzy crescendo. Then, just for good measure, the epic song closes with a minute of contemplative neo-psychedelia. At that point, all that's left to say is, "Damn, The Roots are a helluva band."


South Carolina quartet Crossfade takes the emphatic, melodic macho purge of the likes of Nickelback and weds it to heavier, down-tuned riffs and slightly more adventurous arrangements and production. The result is exactly what one might expect — tepid, turgid heavy-rock anthems that are already causing FM-radio listeners to get the band mixed up with its countless, equally anonymous peers. To be fair, the couple of more straightforward tunes aimed squarely at hit singledom ("Cold," "So Far Away") improve a bit on the predictable aching-longhair formula. But the rest of the album's conspicuously desperate scramble for the perfectly palatable mix of angst, heft, hook and interesting guitar parts is never going to be mistaken for eclecticism. And, of course, being a little better and heavier than Default definitely isn't the same thing as being good. It isn't even close, really. (Crossfade plays Rockerfella's in Bradenton on Saturday, Aug. 14.) 1/2

—Scott Harrell

Is it Rolling Bob?: A Reggae Tribute to Bob Dylan
It's a natural pairing, really. The pervasive spiritualism and social consciousness in Bob Dylan's music dovetails nicely with reggae. And, as this tribute collection bears out, his melodies and lyrics flow beautifully over reggae's loping grooves as well. A roll call of top Jamaican talent turned out for the project, most of them backed by an ace band that includes such luminaries as drummer Sly Dunbar, guitarist Earl "Chinna" Smith and saxophonist Dean Fraser. Producer Doctor Dread chose continuity over rampant eclecticism — concentrating on a hooky roots sound over dancehall, digidub or other more modern iterations — much to the project's benefit. Is It Rolling Bob? is basically a collection of faithful renditions of Dylan tunes, sung with vigor and soul. The set features mostly high-profile songs, among them Beres Hammond's tender "Just Like a Woman," Luciano's stately "Knockin' on Heaven's Door," Gregory Isaacs' plucky "Mr. Tambourine Man" and J.C. Lodge's emotionally charged "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right." Two songs emerge as highlights: Toots Hibbert's swaggering rasp gives "Maggie's Farm" a renewed sense of defiance; and Black Uhuru's Michael Rose lends an exquisite poignancy to the harsh narrative of "The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carrroll." Only one song skews toward dancehall, and even though it doesn't quite work, at least they picked the right number: Sizzla gruffly spews out the verbal fusillade that is "Subterranean Homesick Blues." The disc closes with Dread's "reggae remix" of Dylan singing "I and I," whose original recording featured the top Jamaican rhythm section Sly & Robbie. The producer added some modest dub effects, but as far as transforming it into a reggae song, well, the mid-tempo rock rhythm just doesn't live up to it. It's all right, though, the final track is a curio. All told, Is It Rolling Bob? is a successful cross-cultural statement. 1/2


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