Dig These Discs :: Cyndi Lauper, Julianna Barwick, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Meghan Trainor, Jennifer Nettles

by Winnie McCroy

EDGE Editor

Monday May 16, 2016

Emmy, Grammy and Tony Award-winning artist Cyndi Lauper releases her 11th studio album this month, and the "Detour" takes her deep into country music territory. Mary Chapin Carpenter releases her 14th studio album, her first produced by David Cobb, whose spare, raw production quality is new for Chapin's adult contemporary vibe. Singer/songwriter Meghan Trainor delivers a major "Thank You" this month, in the form of her second studio album. Grammy-winning artist Jennifer Nettles releases her second solo album after stints on Broadway and TV. And Brooklyn looper artist Julianna Barwick releases her fifth collection of songs (her third full-length album) this month, pairing a refrain from her church choir-honed voice with a loop station to create a lush, ambient funnel of music.

"Detour" (Cyndi Lauper)

Emmy, Grammy and Tony Award-winning artist Cyndi Lauper releases her 11th studio album this month, and the "Detour" takes her deep into country music territory. Lauper showcases country classics from the '40s, '50s, and '60s, with some help from country music stars Vince Gill, Emmylou Harris, Alison Krauss and Willie Nelson. She even recorded the album in Nashville, with the city's top session players sitting in. For the album, Lauper duets with several special guests, including country music royalty. Her high, squeaky voice shines on her first single, "Funnel Of Love," which is reminiscent of the quirky R&B cut "Love Potion No. 9." Emmylou Harris and Lauper find harmony in the old-timey title track, "Detour," as she sings, "When I got stuck in the mud, all my hopes dropped with a thud/ I guess that my heartstrings were made of twine, no willpower to get from the hole I'm in yet, shoulda read that detour sign." Lauper sings Etta James' "Misty Blue," and it's startling how good this classic sounds in her voice. She channels Patsy Cline in "Walkin' After Midnight" and "I Fall to Pieces" and brings that same sound to "Misty." Lauper makes you feel for her breaking heart when she swings her way through Ray Price's "Heartaches By the Number," with the unforgettable chorus, "Heartaches by the number, troubles by the score, Every day you love me less, each day I love you more/ Yes, I've got heartaches by the number, a love that I can't win, But the day that I stop countin', that's the day my world will end." The fiddle player wins this cut, hands down. You'll think it's the '60s again when Lauper croons Skeeter Davis' "The End of the World." Singing slow and sweet, Lauper is charming when paired with Willie Nelson's gruff patter in "Night Life," a song he wrote more than 50 years ago. She hits the high notes in "Begging to You," a song about walking out on a lover who's grown ungrateful. Two partners squabble good-naturedly when Lauper teams up with Vince Gill in Loretta Lynn and Conway Twitty's "You're The Reason Our Kids Are Ugly." Don't worry; looks and money ain't everything, and listening to Lauper and Gill argue at the end of the song will get you laughing. Jewel also makes an appearance on "Detour," showcasing her prodigious yodeling skills on "I Want To Be A Cowboy's Sweetheart," which was the first country song by a woman to sell one million copies. The accordion work on this track is amazing! She closes an excellent niche album by teaming up with Alison Krauss for Dolly Parton's "Hard Candy Christmas." Lauper takes "Detour" on the road with a two-part tour, hitting Kentucky, the East Coast and the Midwest through June 12, then heading to Texas on September 10, and making her way down the West Coast through October. Catch her when she detours through your town!
(Sire Records)

"The Things That We Are Made Of" (Mary Chapin Carpenter)

Mary Chapin Carpenter releases her 14th studio album, her first produced by David Cobb, whose spare, raw production quality is new for Chapin's adult contemporary vibe. This collection of 11 songs (including two bonus tracks on the digital version) breaks new ground, and was launched with her single, "Something Tamed Something Wild." In her deep soprano, she sings, "For every time that I've been foolish when I wish that I'd been wise, the power of regret gets me right between the eyes." Carpenter sings of middle age, including her divorce and a near-death experience. Her tune, "The Middle Ages" looks at "the dreams distilled and the dreams discarded" as we grow older. She's got her suitcase by the handle in "What Does It Mean to Travel" but "a change of clothes is all I carried" as she escapes with others to "Livingston." In the end, the "Map Of My Heart" looks a lot like yours, she sings in this upbeat hit, wind in her ears, dirt on her boots. In "Oh Rosetta," she's "telling you those things she tells no one else." You know where you're going, because you've seen it with your own eyes, sings Carpenter in "Deep Deep Down Hear." He comes to her like an electrical spark in the guitar ballad "Hand On My Back," and she leaves her digits under his wipers in "Note on a Windshield." Carpenter finishes the album with the excellent title track.
(Lambert Light Records/Thirty Tigers)

"Thank You" (Meghan Trainor)

Singer/songwriter Meghan Trainor delivers a major "Thank You" this month, in the form of her second studio album. "Watch Me Do" is a bass-heavy track with a '90s hip-hop vibe that has her on "a no-haters diet." It's a throwback track that finds her giving props to James Brown in his day, and incorporates the sounds of previous hits. She keeps her one-woman booster club up in the electro-inspired cut, "Me Too." Her lead single "No" dropped at the beginning of March, and the dance-pop cut champions female independence. It reached number three on the Billboard Hot 100 within four weeks of its release. The song starts out sweet, as Trainor responds to a guy who's trying to pick her up with, "My name is 'no,'/ My sign is 'no,'/ My number is 'no,'/ You need to let it go." In "Thank You," she builds up a sultry island beat as she decries, "I deserve better than you," with Yo Gotti rapping about dissing those fake friends for some real love, the original four-letter word. Trainor said she's all grown up now, and "wanted to go big, I wanted to get all my influences in there and show everything from my Caribbean side to my love for Bruno Mars and Aretha Franklin and even some Elvis vibes, anyone I grew up listening to." The title says it all in the slow, sweet heartbreaker "Hopeless Romantic," with its excellent jazz guitar. She follows the success of her early releases with the gospel-inspired single, "I Love Me," featuring LunchMoney Lewis delivering such hilarious quips as, "Cause I'm sexy and it ain't my fault." Trainor's as earnest as Adele in the slow stunner "Kindly Calm Me Down." You may have heard the cry to "man up," but Trainor tells you to put on your favorite heels and step out looking good, with your head up, in her upbeat cut, "Woman Up." This is one cut you'll hear in the drag clubs this summer! Ukulele brings a beach vibe to "Just A Friend To You," which could fill in as Part Two of Biz Markie's legendary cut "Just A Friend." She hurts the one she loves the most, but promises that this time, "I Won't Let You Down." The cut has a Caribbean beat, and a message of making yourself proud. A girl-band sound rules "Dance Like Yo Daddy" as Trainor sings about moving, twisting, pushing down that flow and doing those shoulder rolls. She's light and breezy as she sing/raps about WPP (White People Problems) in her aptly-named "Champagne Problems." The Deluxe Edition includes three additional tracks, including, just in time for Mother's Day, her single "Mom," featuring Trainor's own mom Kelli, was released on April 29. Trainor takes her album on "The Untouchable Tour" in July.
(Epic Records)

"Playing With Fire" (Jennifer Nettles)

Grammy-winning artist Jennifer Nettles releases her second solo album after stints on Broadway and TV, and is proud of the "ton of sass and emotion and fun." Dann Huff produced the album, which includes collaborations with Brandy Clark, Shane McAnally, Jessie Jo Dillon and Lori McKenna. She premiered her single "Unlove You" on Jimmy Fallon's show around Thanksgiving, singing, "my heart can't unbreak" in a heartwrenching turn. In the time since, she's starred as Roxie Hart in "Chicago" and as Dolly Parton's mother in the TV movie, "Coat of Many Colors." Now, she delivers a dozen tunes for her fans. The title song finds her country colors coming through as she sings about how she's tired of being perfect, that she's "colored right inside the lines, now I want to make a mess." Her cut "Hey Heartbreak" has Nettles giving a reluctant kiss-off to her ex, and the heartbreak that "only brings me down, down, down." She's tired from her "40-hour week at the Quickie Mart and another 35 at home," in the old-timey piano track, "Drunk In Heels." It's the classic "bring home the bacon" song, but in this iteration, she's too tired to fry it up. She chastises the "Stupid Girl" who flies too close to the sun by trying to live for herself, rather than for everyone else. She's looking for danger when she pursues "Three Days in Bed" with a stranger, and gets funky in "Sugar." Nettles comes on sultry, vowing to be "the only name on your lips" in "Chaser" and grabs her coat and keys and hits the road in the sad piano tune, "Starting Over." Nettles sings about a churchgoing woman who tries to outrun her hurt through good deeds, with Nettles singing, "that ain't how salvation works." All of her mistakes have led her to you in the "Way Back Home." Nettles finishes the album with "My House," featuring Jennifer Lopez, as they sing, "we're really not that different," with Nettles singing, "I'm Jenny from the third row," and Lopez countering, "And I'm Jenny from the block." It's a little bit country and a little bit rock and roll, just like Nettles.
(Big Machine Records)

"Will" (Julianna Barwick)

Brooklyn looper artist Julianna Barwick releases her fifth collection of songs (her third full-length album) this month, pairing refrains from her church choir-honed voice with a loop station to create a lush, ambient funnel of music. "While making this record, there were moments of isolation and dark currents," Barwick admits. "I like exploring that, and I love when I come across songs that sound scary or ominous. I've always been curious about what goes into making a song that way." She kicks off her nine tracks with "St. Apolonia," with her high soprano voice singing of the sea as ambient sea sounds unfurl. Her first single, the resonant "Nebula," premiered on NPR, accompanied by a music video directed by Derrick Belcham and shot at the historic Philip Johnson Glass House. Piano and strings add layers to Barwick's ambient vocals in "Beached." In her video for "Same," directed by Zia Anger, she crawls around an office and school in a business suit, with others in pursuit. In "Wist," it sounds as if Barwick is singing, "wist" while loops of sounds enfold her, before it comes to a curt closing. She investigates echoes in "Big Hollow" but keeps things spare as she starts "Heading Home," with just a few piano keys to lead her way before her vocals and strings chime in. The ghostly vocal of "Someway" builds and loops off that one word, and Barwick closes the album with "See, Know" a blaring soundscape that sounds like pedaling a bike home through rush hour traffic. Barwick takes her loops on tour, with spring dates in Europe before returning to the U.S. for a DC gig on June 15, before traveling through the Midwest.
(Dead Oceans)

Winnie McCroy is the Women on the EDGE Editor, HIV/Health Editor, and Assistant Entertainment Editor for EDGE Media Network, handling all women's news, HIV health stories and theater reviews throughout the U.S. She has contributed to other publications, including The Village Voice, Gay City News, Chelsea Now and The Advocate, and lives in Brooklyn, New York.