Cuban-influenced singer-guitarist Lili Añel is part soul sister, part jazz chanteuse and pure dynamite. With distinct folk and reggae underpinnings, she suggests Nina Simone blended with Joan Armatrading. Indeed, Armatrading’s “Down to Zero” (one of the few exercises in ego deflation that can hold its own against Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone”) is the only cover among the 14 tracks that fill Añel’s third disc, the first to provide her full creative control as co-producer. The album might well have been titled Love and Pain and the Whole Damn Thing, as Añel embarks on the musical equivalent of a whitewater-rafting expedition, traveling from the calm romantic idealism of “Between Me” to the stormy pain of “Over You” and wavy trepidation of “Try Again” and “I’m Sorry,” two distinctly evocative perspectives on rekindled love.
Añel also includes two newly recorded carryovers—the blackly despondent “If” and icily dismissive “Nothing in Common,” now done, she says, the way she’d originally intended—from her previous disc, Hi-Octane Coffee, then sums it all up with the pensive title track that insists, no matter what hardships may arise, a fierce unwillingness to succumb to life’s nightmares. Her songwriting is consistently excellent, ofttimes Joni Mitchell sharp, and her wide-ranging but unswervingly thoughtful performances do her songs full justice.