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Music reviews: Laura Mvula great on debut CD; Beth Hart and Joe Bonamassa team up on new release

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. The Associated Press
Thursday, May 23, 2013 - 12:01 am

Laura Mvula, “Sing to the Moon”

Infused with a range of influences, including African folk and modern pop, English-born singer Laura Mvula is distinctively different on her debut album, “Sing to the Moon.” Comparisons to Nina Simone and rising Scottish newcomer Emeli Sande have already been made, but Mvula shouldn't be compared to anyone.

The opening track, “Like the Morning Dew,” is alluring and appealing, as is the string and brass arrangement on the following song, “Make Me Lovely.”

“Green Garden” is smooth, velvety and melodic. The joyful tune will persuade you to dance and clap your hands. On “Can't Live With the World,” Mvula is intriguingly opposite, showcasing her versatility on the delicately stunning track with meaningful lyrics.

With so many captivating songs on “Sing to the Moon,” Mvula is star quality and is paving her way toward a long and wonderful career. This is art.

Beth Hart and Joe Bonamassa, “Seesaw”

Singer Beth Hart and guitarist Joe Bonamassa have a soulful and sultry new album out with “Seesaw.” With her voice and his guitar, the album has all the pieces in place to deliver bluesy fireworks built around some decades-old standards.

But purists will be put off by the cacophony of strings and a frequently overbearing horn section. Moreover, you don't have to be a purist to want to hear Bonamassa race over the frets of his vintage Gibsons, yet he is occasionally reduced to the undeserving role of a backup ax on several tracks that fail to showcase his skills.

Hart holds up her end of the deal well. How could she not with a voice like that? She's all sizzle on raucous tracks like “Nutbush City Limits,” doing the Tina Turner tune justice. And she and Bonamassa go full tilt on Buddy Miles' “Miss Lady,” easily one of the album's best songs.

But for two blues heavyweights with very few modern-day peers, “Seesaw” still feels like a missed opportunity. Fewer instruments in between Hart's voice and Bonamassa's guitar might have offered an even better display of their talents.