Face the Music
Avant’s seventh album arrives just in time for Valentine’s Day: It’s full of ballads and seductive tracks that highlight the R&B performer’s singing and songwriting skills.
Avant doesn’t break any barriers vocally on Face the Music, but he does bring on a freshness that always makes him worth listening to. That’s evident on the album opener, Toast to Love, and the midtempo 80 in a 30, which displays the Avant we know and love.
You and I, featuring KeKe Wyatt, sees the awesome twosome throwing down again, adding to their previous collaborations like the classic My First Love and Nothing in This World.
Avant does stretch out of his comfort zone slightly on No, opting for a more poplike sound, and it works. Face the Music isn’t perfect, but it’s an R&B goodie.
— Bianca Roach
Touch & Go
Lisa Gardner has delivered another tour de force with Touch & Go, which exposes the raw nerves of a family imploding, and an investigator trying to escape her past.
Justin Denbe and his wife, Libby, return from a night out to discover intruders in their home. They witness their 15-year-old daughter, Ashlyn, being attacked with a stun gun before they are attacked as well.
The family is taken to a state-of-the-art penitentiary that Denbe’s firm built but never put into use. As they wait to learn their captors’ motive, they struggle to be civil to one other. (Justin had an affair, Libby is addicted to painkillers, and Ashlyn has a secret boyfriend.)
Private investigator Tessa Leoni still lives with the aftermath of the horrible events that changed her life forever, as told in Gardner’s earlier novel, Love You More. She is hired by Denbe Construction to investigate the kidnapping. Both Leoni and the authorities are surprised there is no ransom demand.
Why were the Denbes abducted? How do their kidnappers know so much about them? And can they get past their grievances and escape?
Gardner does an amazing job of creating realistic situations and characters with emotional resonance. The constant surprises will shock even the most jaded thriller reader.
A character says in the beginning of the novel, “Pain has a flavor. The question is, what does it taste like to you?” Touch & Go is the opposite of pain; it’s a total pleasure.
— Jeff Ayers
On Electric, Richard Thompson plugs in and delivers his most generous helping of guitar solos in many years, perhaps ever. The fretwork is marvelous even by his lofty standards, and some credit for inspiration probably goes to producer Buddy Miller, a fair picker himself.
While Thompson’s notes come in a flurry, he has always been prolific as a composer, too, and here he serves up another solid batch of songs. He might get flagged for a late hit on Sarah Palin with Sally B, but it rocks, as does Stony Ground, where unrequited love turns bloody. Otherwise, the body count’s lower than on most Thompson albums.
He’s ably accompanied by his touring mates, drummer Michael Jerome and bassist Taras Prodaniuk, and the arrangements give the guitarist plenty of room to do his thing. Each time Thompson launches into one of his eclectic breaks, Electric becomes electrifying.
— Steven Wine