Greg Cartwright has always been a rock & roller with the heart of a soul man, but on his fifth studio album with Reigning Sound, 2014's Shattered, it's the soul man who speaks the loudest. After a five-year layoff, during which Cartwright had to deal with the death of a handful of family and friends (including his onetime bandmate and protégé Jay Reatard), Reigning Sound have a new lineup again, and Shattered is a more measured and contemplative set than this group has released in the past, as Cartwright's new songs reflect his deep love of classic soul music. Cartwright sounds passionate but sadly reflective on tracks like "If You Gotta Leave" and "In My Dreams," and while he can still turn up the amps and rock with authority on numbers like "North Cackalacky Girl" and "My My," it's the sad songs that dominate Shattered and ultimately matter the most. Cartwright has never been afraid to wear his heart on his sleeve, both as a singer and a vocalist, and if he's a bit more subtle on Shattered than on, say, Time Bomb High School, he never sounds less than sincere or compelling, and "Falling Rain" and "You Did Wrong" show he doesn't have to shout to make his feelings understood. The members of Cartwright's new band -- Dave Amels on organ, Mike Catanese on guitar, Benjamin Trokan on bass, and Mikey Post on drums -- are graceful with the slow numbers and muscular when they need to rock, and the low-key string charts on "Once More" and "Never Coming Home" provide a new wrinkle that fits these songs perfectly. The best thing about Reigning Sound has always been Cartwright's gifts as a songwriter and his ability to make those songs come alive with his vocals, and Shattered demonstrates that even when he's aiming to caress rather than bruise, he's an artist who makes a real impact. Some Reigning Sound fans might miss the harder-rocking side of the band, but if you're looking for ten new Greg Cartwright songs sung with real heart and soul, Shattered is just what you've been waiting for.
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AllMusic Review by Mark Deming