Toshi Reagon rocks on Toshi, a tight collection of stripped-to-the-bone tracks that go for the throat straight from the heart. Borrowing the Kinks' eternally classic "You Really Got Me" riff on the opening cut "Oh No No," Reagon kicks into high gear, detailing the trials of love and fidelity with melody and fervor. Though the lyrics are laden with passion and angst, the album is an uptempo affair, bolstered via a strong backbeat and Reagon's patented vocal style, which melds blues, soul, gospel, and R&B. Her folk roots emerge in "Big Love," a poignant cut embellished by Catherine Russell on mandolin and bassist Fred Cash, who's upper-register counterpoint provides the perfect foil to Reagon's phrasing. "Ballad of the Broken Word" is a tasteful blues dirge abetted by a cadre of sultry backing vocals and acid guitar leads aplenty. But the kicker is a ballad rendering of the Cars' old hit "Just What I Needed," a duet with Marc Anthony Thompson, who does his best imitation of Leonard Cohen. Another strong outing by an artist who improves with each new release.
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AllMusic Review by Tom Semioli