Clearly spectacular

Shirlette Ammons styles herself as a poet first and musician second, but on her sophomore album it's the music that really shines.

Shirlette Ammons
Language Barrier
The breadth and scope of the songs (particularly the arrangements) is thrilling. The sound whips from electronic collage to power pop to hip hop beats to indie rock with an offhanded ease. Even better, Ammons makes sure that her lyrics are a perfect fit for their settings.

The Indigo Girls, Meshell Ndegeocello and others stop by to provide vocals (some sing, some rap, some do a little of both) Ammons' songs, and Ammons does a fine job of presenting these well-known voices in new and fresh ways.

Indeed, Ammons comes off as the consummate producer/artist here. She writes incisive, yet accessible, songs. She creates wonderful temples of sound for those songs. And she wrings spectacular performances out of her guests. Then there is the matter of the unusual titling of the songs. Some are tagged as seques or intros, though the connections between, say, "Earth Segue" and "Earth Intro" are thematic and not musical. And both are complete songs, not fragments. I'm not criticizing; I find this approach intriguing. Just don't get thrown off.

A confident and striking set. Ammons clearly has a vision for her art, and she's hit the bullseye here. Few albums have the musical range, and even fewer are able to pull off such a versatile feat. I'm always glad to hear good stuff from my old home of Durham, N.C. Adds fuel to the fire for a return.

Jon Worley

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