Formerly a homespun songwriter, Kate Earl tones down the earthiness and unleashes her inner Winehouse with the self-titled Kate Earl. This is her major-label debut -- the first record since 2006's Fate Is the Hunter secured her a spot on the indie map -- and its 12 songs are appropriately streamlined, replacing most of her debut's intimacy with something bold, brassy, and soulful. "Nobody hikes up my skirt like you," she sings during the first track, combining cocktail-lounge sass with a sexy, risqué delivery. R&B plays a big role throughout the album, from the heavy percussion of "All I Want" to the electronic bleeps that flank Earl's voice in "Can't Treat Me That Way." Even so, she sounds best whenever she makes equal room for her Motown influences, and some of the best tracks here -- particularly the Ronettes-influenced "Only in Dreams" -- help link Earl with divas of pop's past. The bulk of this album is more indebted to the iPod generation, though, referencing older genres without losing its contemporary polish.
Kate Earl Review
by Andrew Leahey