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Emilie-Claire Barlow: Clear Day

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Though Diana Krall remains Canada’s most celebrated jazz vocalist, Emilie-Claire Barlow, now 11 albums into a career of steadily escalating prowess, nips ever closer at her heels. Barlow’s voice is lighter and brighter than Krall’s, her range wider and her interpretive expressiveness fully as acute. Like Krall, Barlow started out focusing almost exclusively on standards from the American and Brazilian songbooks but has started of late to include more contemporary covers. While her last studio album in English (she also records extensively in French), 2010’s The Beat Goes On, concentrated solely on ’60s pop hits, Clear Day explores a wider palette. With backing from the 70-piece Metropole Orkest, plus Barlow’s five regular bandmates augmented by nine other players and backup singers, it’s also her grandest outing to date.

Occasionally, that vast sea of sound can become a bit overwhelming. Most noticeably on “On a Clear Day You Can See Forever” and “Midnight Sun,” Barlow struggles against towering, crashing waves. But those are exceptions. The dozen remaining tracks (five of which are absent the Orkest) are more temperately arranged. She adds newfound depth to such varied selections as Lennon and McCartney’s “Because,” Coldplay’s “Fix You,” Van Morrison’s “Sweet Thing,” Joni Mitchell’s “I Don’t Know Where I Stand,” Queen and David Bowie’s “Under Pressure” and a dramatically slowed “Feelin’ Groovy.” Most impactful are the album’s quietest track, Brad Mehldau’s dark-cornered “Unrequited,” and its knottiest, Pat Metheny’s multi-shaded “It’s Only Talk.”

Originally Published