From beginning to end of the Mavericks’ reunion album In Time, the genre-busting band embodies the very best of the melting-pot experience that’s a fundamental component of the American character. Singer-songwriter Raul Malo and his Nashville-based compatriots draw freely, and joyously, from cultures spanning North and South America on one of the year’s most scintillating pop music outings.
The party begins in the opening track, Back in Your Arms Again. A fat, twangy chord from an echo-drenched country guitar shares space with a lilting strummed Hawaiian uke, which are quickly joined by a peppery Tex-Mex keyboard and timbales that ride along as a propulsive rhythm section jumps in. Then Malo’s soaring tenor arrives, bringing palpable romanticism to a tale about the sweetness of reunion that applies equally to the song’s romance-minded protagonist as his band’s own return to the spotlight.
The spirit of inclusiveness never lets up, infusing the pedal-to-the-metal punch of Lies, the mariachi-spiked breakup celebration in Fall Apart and the Tex-Mex fiesta of All Over Again. And if there isn’t a pop vocal Grammy Award next year for Malo’s stunning display on the eight-minute operatic Latin-pop-gospel epic (Call Me) When You Get to Heaven, awards overseers ought to just pack it in.
Malo, whose Cuban heritage comes out in the dance-mindedness of nearly every track, also co-produced the album with Niko Bolas, and they’ve captured a sound as tangibly uplifting as pop music gets. The Mavericks are back and indeed, just in time.
— Randy Lewis
Los Angeles Times
THE SOUND OF BROKEN GLASS
Taking for granted the quality of a suspense series is easy, especially after 15 books. Deborah Crombie never falters. Her novels are a delight, and with The Sound of Broken Glass, she keeps her impressive creative streak intact.
A Texan who writes about Great Britain — she has lived in England and Scotland — Crombie started this series about London police detectives Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James 20 years ago, entwining details of their lives with well-constructed, evocative mysteries and fascinating glimpses of the great city itself. Here she sets her story in Crystal Palace, the neighborhood that grew around a cast-iron and glass building erected in Hyde Park for the Great Exhibition of 1851 and destroyed by fire in 1936.
When Crombie introduced them, Duncan and Gemma were work partners whose attraction grew too hard to ignore. Now, they’re married with three kids (his, hers and a newly adopted daughter). Duncan is taking his turn at stay-at-home parenting — their daughter, Charlotte, is struggling to adjust to school — while Gemma returns to the job.
Her first case? A barrister is found naked, tied up and dead in a sleazy hotel. When an acquaintance of Duncan and Gemma’s turns out to be linked to the case, Duncan finds himself unofficially involved, his Mr. Mom duties interrupted.
Crombie’s novels often examine how the past influences the present, which dovetails nicely with her depiction of London as a city in which history still lives. Here, alongside the present-day case work, she teases out the story of a lonely, music-loving teenage boy growing up in Crystal Palace with an alcoholic mother. He’s befriended by a neighbor but runs afoul of a couple of bad seeds. Even when characters appear only in one or two books, Crombie fleshes them out with substance and skill.
And even as the body count rises, Crombie makes the domestic crises of a busy family as compelling as the whodunit; Duncan and Gemma disprove the usual wisdom that once you get the lovers together, they’re no longer interesting. They remain the heart and soul of this entertaining series.
— Connie Ogle
This collection of James Taylor and Carole King songs marks Amanda Brecker’s U.S. recording debut, but the singer has a rich musical pedigree. She’s the daughter of jazz trumpeter Randy Brecker and Brazilian singer-pianist Eliane Elias, and has performed with her mother since she was 8.
Her background gives her the confidence to perform classic songs like So Far Away, Something In the Way He Moves and Sweet Baby James in a relaxed, respectful manner — with a few jazzy embellishments — that caresses the lyrics without over-the-top vocal displays.
Producer Jesse Harris brought in several King-Taylor collaborators such as bassist Lee Sklar and drummer Russ Kunkel, whose tasteful accompaniment enhances but never overwhelms the vocals. Brecker gives her most impassioned performance on You’ve Got a Friend, tastefully backed only by jazz pianist Larry Goldings, a frequent Taylor partner.
The only original, You Were Mine, hints at Brecker’s songwriting talent. While Blossom showcases her vocal talents, her next album hopefully will reveal more of her musical personality.
— Charles J. Gans