Cassandra Wilson Thunderbird

After years of playing it straight with her roots-y approach to standard jazz, blues and folk sounds, singer Cassandra Wilson has recently moved (rather measurably) left towards a more modern feel, her results garnering mixed reviews from her purist fan base. Her latest effort, Thunderbird, continues unapologetically in that same direction, with O Brother producer T Bone Bunnett and hip-hop studio hired guns Keefus Ciancia and Mike Elizondo (who’ve separately had their hands in top billing tracks by 50 Cent, Dr. Dre, Eminem and Gwen Stefani) called in to expand the sound pallet. The outcome, though, is again mixed. Opening cut "Go to Mexico” and its backbeat worked around a chopped vocal and guitar sample, along with the drum & bass underpinnings of "Poet,” offer brief glimpses of an interesting new direction. What eventually undoes this record, albeit surprisingly however, is the weight and style of Wilson’s voice. Though as deep, rich and dreamy as ever, its natural sleepiness leaves you fighting disinterest, even on the most danceable tracks. With Thunderbird, you’re left with the sense that, while one day in the right hands this voice will drop something truly special and far reaching, that day is still a few tweaks and stylistic shifts off. (Blue Note)