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06/03/14

Curtis Stigers
Hooray for Love
Concord Records

There are certain singers, mostly male, for whom increased asperity magnifies their appeal. Ray Charles tops the list, followed closely by Mark Murphy, Tony Bennett and Andy Bey. Curtis Stigers numbers among them too. But with Stigers, as with Steve Tyrell, there’s an added dimension: the more bruised and battered his voice becomes the sexier he sounds. Indeed, across Hooray for Love’s 10 tracks, Stigers’ gravel-paved allure has never been so intense.

It helps, of course, that Stigers eschews his longstanding preference for songs by more modern songwriters—Dylan, Waits, Sting, Paul Simon, Randy Newman—in favor of classic Tin Pan Alley fare. Alongside cozy readings of “Love Is Here to Stay,” “The Way You Look Tonight” and “That’s All,” and a toweringly forlorn “You Don’t Know What Love Is,” he serves up a warm, lilting “If I Were a Bell” and, in a May-September pairing with emerging French chanteuse Cyrille Aimée, a sweet if slightly wolfish “You Make Me Feel So Young.”

Stigers’ does manage to sneak in one contemporary tune, Steve Earle’s cuddly “Valentine’s Day”—remarkably similar in sentiment to “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love”—and adds three bubbly new compositions of his own: the cheerful list song “Give Your Heart to Me,” buoyant “A Matter of Time” and, not to be confused with the Jimmy McHugh-Dorothy Fields gem of the same name, the springy title track.

Originally published in May 2014
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