Meshell Ndegeocello


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AllMusic Review by Andy Kellman

On the majority of Weather, Meshell Ndegeocello is supported by a core group that played on 2009's Devil's Halo: drummer Deantoni Parks, guitarist Chris Bruce, and pianist Keefus Ciancia. Whereas Devil's Halo was co-produced by Ndegeocello and Bruce, this set was produced by Joe Henry, who was involved in the making of 1999's Bitter and notes in the liners here that he "pushed for songs to happen -- as much as possible -- as real-time 'live' performances." Compared to Devil's Halo, the set is a little more stripped-down with a slightly greater sense of spontaneity, and Ciancia dials down his "various soundscapes." There's tighter focus on romantic relationships, or maybe just one relationship, with a "you" addressed throughout on a spectrum of aching emotion that ranges from distress to desire. Radically different emotions are conveyed with minor, affecting inflections. In the dizzily swaying "Objects in Mirror," she can't move on ("I think about you every day/While I loiter on your doorstep"), while the somewhat similarly adorned "La Petite Mort" floats in on hushed libidinal swagger ("Arch your back and tell me the truth/Who's your daddy now?"). The wealth of lithe, quiet backdrops played at slow tempos allows Ndegeocello, who switches between husky lower and sweet upper registers with more ease than ever, to tickle the ears. No song rocks, but a few groove, best heard on "Dirty World" ("Kick and scream and watch it burn"), featuring a stealthily furious and funky bassline. This time, there are two covers, and they slip into the album's fabric with ease. The Soul Children's 1972 Stax single "Don't Take My Kindness for Weakness" is turned into a delicate ballad with acoustic guitar and piano but is no less assertive, while Leonard Cohen's "Chelsea Hotel" gets stately, full-band treatment with a wistful touch. Ndegeocello is making some of the finest music of her life. Given her consistency of late, it's quite possible that the same thing will be said of her output for as long as she is active.

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