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January/February 2003

Chris Connor
I Walk With Music
HighNote Records

Think of damask silk, decades old. Smooth, luxurious and elegant, but ragged around the edges and faded to the point of fragility. Such is Chris Connor's voice on I Walk With Music (HighNote). The shadow of those breathtaking Atlantic albums from the '50s looms large over these 10 tracks, reminding us that this is a singer whose smoky allure was nonpareil. But a range that was limited even then has grown restrictively narrow, and it's impossible to ignore the cracks. When the mood calls for wistful reflection, as on "Where Can I Go Without You?" "Quiet Nights" and "This Heart of Mine," Connor is still the master, soft as dimming firelight and heartbreakingly poignant. Anything more upbeat-"Route 66," the Gershwins' "Shall We Dance" or the ill-chosen "On the Road Again"-proves rough going. Midway through "Serenade In Blue," Connor wonders, "Is there still a spark?" Indeed there is, but the years have sharply dampened its intensity.

Originally published in January/February 2003
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