Anna Calvi One Breath

Anna CalviOne Breath
You can always count on British musicians doing everything with a heightened sense of drama. For example, if Anna Calvi had been born in America rather than London, her prodigious talents as a singer and Hendrix-inspired guitarist would likely have led her down a familiar blues-rock path. Instead, her self-titled 2011 debut displayed uncommon ambition consistent with her classical training. With support from Brian Eno, Calvi masterfully infused her songs with an operatic quality, approaching Nick Cave's take on Americana, and those ideas are developed further on this John Congleton-produced follow-up. Although One Breath doesn't rely on Calvi's instrumental prowess as much as might be hoped, her skills at creating tension have been honed razor-sharp. That's most evident in the relationship sketches at the heart of many of the songs, such as "Eliza," "Tristan" and "Love of My Life." The last, in particular, contains a blistering guitar solo that more than underscores the emotional maelstrom of the lyrics. But more often, One Breath's brilliance comes across in the dynamic range of Calvi's voice, as on "Sing To Me," where the track's build reaches symphonic proportions. Calvi is unquestionably a great performer, but on One Breath, her work reaches a level of nuance that the majority of contemporary music lacks. (Domino)