Dana Pomfret

Realtime

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Dana Pomfret's exceptional Soul Collage was one of those singer/songwriter records (John Prine's first album and Warren Zevon's second come to mind) that seemed to arrive fully formed out of nowhere, so deft and confident were its performances and so impeccable its selection of songs. While there are no hooks on this follow-up as instantly catchy as those heard on "Buttermilk Highway," "Trick's on You," "1 & 1," or "Private Idaho," Realtime exquisitely confirms that the near-flawlessness of its predecessor was not fortuitous. In fact, to at least an equal degree as Soul Collage, it generously rewards repeated and careful listening. Though an unsatisfactory comparison in some ways (Pomfret's songs always remain melodically rich, sinuously playful, and accessible), there are aspects of Realtime that evoke Joni Mitchell during her challenging '70s phase. Within the unmistakably pop-based formats, the compositions freely and organically explore jazz- (the French folk tune "Colchiques Dans les Prés," the harmonic celebration "Lifecracy") and world-specific ("Barriers") impulses and avenues, and are allowed to take shape at their own easygoing pace. In the process, they are propelled by a supremely luscious instrumental interplay. Most of Realtime was recorded with a regular working quartet, and it really flexes its muscle here. The catalyst is often the virtuoso acoustic bass of genuine jazzbo François Moutin ("On the Wire," for instance), but Jim Chapdelaine, the album's co-producer, also coaxes some impressive solos (particularly on the jaunty "Take It Back to Love") out of a variety of guitars. Fresh musical textures aside, Pomfret still exudes her easy, alluring sensuality and has an ear impeccably attuned to the inflections of soul, gospel, and folk, evident on tracks like "DNA," the slinky "Snake," and "Take a Giant Step," during which she gives the band a rest and performs the Carole King classic as an acoustic duet with CPR's Jeff Pevar, somehow managing to transform the song into a deliciously coquettish Delta blues. A bravura accomplishment.

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