Toni Price

Born to Be Blue

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Regardless of its title, Born to Be Blue is less a blues album than a jazz, country, Texas swing, folk, and/or bluegrass one. In fact, Toni Price combines these genres so seamlessly that each track generally incorporates at least a few styles. This is Price's most diverse and laid-back release, with its easygoing vibe reinforced by the singer occasionally calling out cues for musicians to solo. Beautifully produced by Price and Derek O'Brien (who has worked on all six of her albums), her soulful voice is stunning in its comfy, lazy groove. Although she can belt out songs -- as witnessed on previous releases -- that's not the approach favored here. She caresses and cradles these tunes, never rushing or infusing false emotions. The listener is swept up in the predominantly acoustic, sparse accompaniment, which allows Price's supple voice room to float around the lithe melodies. Whether this is a direct result of the success of the similarly styled Norah Jones is hard to tell, but certainly the same audience that enjoyed that jazz/blues/pop singer's debut would appreciate this. Not a songwriter, Price unearths obscure gems from Dr. John (a previously unreleased "Clouds" accompanied by interlaced acoustic guitars from O'Brien, Casper Rawls, and famed Elvis sideman James Burton), a bluesy "Rain Down Tears" (originally done by Hank Ballad and the Midnighters, and performed here by the same sublime guitar trio), and the Mel Tormé-penned title track. The string quartet on the closing "One of These Lonely Days" perfectly complements, but doesn't overwhelm the tune. It adds up to 45 minutes of magnificent, lovingly performed low-key music that seems to be made without regard for commercial considerations.

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