x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

k.d. lang and the Siss Boom Bang: Sing it Loud

kd lang's new album is a work of back-to-basics country folk.

Sing it Loud
Nonesuch
**** 

However you want to measure a musician's success, k.d. lang's 25-year career comes out of it pretty well. Whether it's Grammys won (four) and nominated for (11), landmark live performances (most recently presenting her famous rendition of Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah live at the opening ceremony of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canada), legends recorded with (Tony Bennett, Elton John, Roy Orbison), songwriting credits (including the Rolling Stones, no less) or music-industry credentials (she comes fully Nashville-approved), lang has continued to be a genuine singer's singer.

Now, with her first named band in two decades, the Siss Boom Bang, Lang has ditched the impassioned balladry for which she was becoming known in favour of back-to-basics country folk. The album's opener, I Confess, sees her singing Roy Orbison-like "life with you only brought me heartache/I've had all the lonely I can take". Lang's fittingly melodramatic drawl floats over crashing bolero drums and gorgeous guitar picking.

The Water's Edge has a classic soul groove and a perfectly understated chorus, while the old-timey Sugar Buzz is underlaid with distorted guitars and cool organ bursts. Even the country-pop of Sorrowful Nevermore sounds surprisingly vital.

These more upbeat numbers work better than their slow-tempo companions, more than one of which is eerily reminiscent of the theme from Twin Peaks. Tucked away towards the end of the record is an exception, however: lang's ultra-smooth take on the Talking Heads' Heaven seems to give the song's pensive lyrics new meaning.