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Pop reviews — Week of March 16

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Duets

Donnie McClurkin

Donnie McClurkin’s vocals continue to soar smoothly on his sixth studio album, Duets.

McClurkin, a three-time Grammy winner best known for the 2000 hit We Fall Down, collaborates with a strong supporting cast on this impressive piece of soul-pleasing work. The 10-track set features some of gospel’s top artists, including Marvin Sapp, Tye Tribbett, Israel Houghton and McClurkin’s cousin, John P. Kee. Duets even features Tina and Erica Campbell of Mary Mary on separate songs.

McClurkin offers inspirational messages of maintaining a winning attitude on the Tribbett-assisted We Are Victorious, learning how to appreciate others more on All About the Love and living a stress-free life on the standout track, Let It Go, featuring Dorinda Clark-Cole.

On Come as You Are, McClurkin, Sapp, Houghton and New Breed Africa sing about making a life-changing leap of faith. My Past is an eight-plus-minute track on moving beyond mistakes and learning from them.

From mid- to upbeat praise and worship tunes, McClurkin certainly hits the mark with this one.

— Jonathan Landrum Jr.

Associated Press

The Accident

Chris Pavone

Chris Pavone, author of the compelling The Expats, returns with his new novel, The Accident, a journey into the world of book publishing and secrets.

Literary agent Isabel Reed receives a hand-delivered manuscript from an anonymous author. She’s a bit put off, but when she starts reading the mysterious manuscript, she can’t put it down. The revelations in the narrative would easily create a scandal involving one of the world’s most powerful men.

Isabel knows an editor named Jeff who can keep a secret and who understands the kind of explosion the book’s publication would cause.

Meanwhile, CIA operative Hayden Gray has been tracking the manuscript’s elusive author. He’s done everything to make sure the revelations contained in the book never see the light of day, and he’s shocked to learn that Isabel has read it. He has a bold decision to make.

Then Isabel’s assistant is found dead, and Isabel realizes she and Jeff might be next.

The setup that Pavone unveils is quite tantalizing, and it would have been easy to have the secret be unremarkable. But the author avoids that trap with terrific surprises and high-quality writing in this engaging thriller.

— Jeff Ayers

Associated Press

Slow Me Down

Sara Evans

The cover of Sara Evans’ new album depicts her in front of a giant clock above the title Slow Me Down — an ironic statement for a country star releasing only her second album in nine years.

But taking her time benefits Evans in one way: Slow Me Down ranks with such past gems as 2005’s Real Fine Place and 2000’s Born To Fly, two of Evans’ best, and most successful, albums. She also profits from working with one producer, Mark Bright, who also co-produced Real Fine Place with Evans, a move away from the multiple producers found on Evans’ disappointing 2011 release, Restless.

Bright adds particularly inventive and engaging arrangements to such standout cuts as Sweet Spot and especially You Never Know, with its clever use of strings as a rhythmic element set against drums, bass and guitars. Evans’ maturity also informs her new songs, especially the title cut, the equally compelling Better Off (a duet with Vince Gill) and A Little Revival.

Judging from the strength of her new work, Evans should ignore her own advice and speed up recording efforts on the next round.

— Michael McCall

Associated Press


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