Curtis Stigers

Brighter Days

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Curtis Stigers began the '90s quite promisingly, as his eponymous debut generated a Top Ten single with "I Wonder Why" and he seemed on the brink of stardom as a classier, substantial alternative to Michael Bolton's ersatz adult contemporary soul man. Then, something happened. His second album didn't make much of an impact and he was caught up in contractual hassles, meaning that he didn't deliver his third album (and first for Columbia), Brighter Days, until the summer of 1999 -- nearly eight years after his first hit. Brighter Days finds Stigers considerably more mature, shooting for the adult alternative market and succeeding, more or less. It helps that he's working with a great list of collaborators, ranging from songwriters Jules Shear and Carole King to supporting musicians Jackson Browne, Benmont Tench and Chuck Leavell. Each track has been carefully constructed and produced, which presents an interesting quandary -- as individual songs, they're all quite good, but taken together, they tend to sound a little too similar. Nevertheless, Stigers has delivered a record that fulfills the promise of his debut. It's a gentle, streamlined blend of Van Morrison's blue-eyed soul (there's even a tribute song, "Van Said (Sha La La)") and such radio-ready Americana bands as the Wallflowers and Hootie & the Blowfish, yet it has a stronger songwriterly bent, which gives it its own identity -- and that's enough to make Brighter Days an enjoyable comeback.

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