I Think It's Going to Rain Today
One of the best ways to measure a singer's appeal is in road miles. How far can you travel with the same voice pouring forth from the car stereo before hitting the eject button? Frank Sinatra could transport me nonstop from Maine to Mexico, as could Ella Fitzgerald, Anita O'Day, Peggy Lee, Andy Bey, Mark Murphy and Mel Torme. Add Curtis Stigers to that list. With I Think It's Going to Rain Today (Concord), Stigers shifts into creative overdrive, taking us a good clip further down the road toward genius.
Spinning the 12 tracks that fill Rain, I'm struck by Stigers' similarities to Ray Charles. Yes, there's a somewhat parallel gruffness to their sounds, but it's more a question of musical sensibility-an easygoing self-awareness paired with a ravenous musical hunger for every note, every line, every phrase they're fortunate enough to meet. Listen to the dreamy self-delusion of his "Crazy," indulgently bleak yet shot through with codependent optimism. Hear him so effortlessly embrace both the sharp humor and sophisticated ennui of Sting's "Can't Stand Losing You," bounce through the Depression era anthem "Side by Side" with gleefully romantic naivete, then overlay the isolationist heartbreak of the Randy Newman title tune with sinewy street smarts. Appreciate his skill at blending Murphy cool and Torme warmth to completely reinvent "That's All Right." Put it all together and know how worth the wait it will be for a deep enough Stigers catalog to carry you clear cross-country.