Anyone watching singer-songwriter/fiddler Phoebe Hunt leapfrog from Belleville Outfit belle to first-call session violinist to solo artist is witnessing the development of a formidable talent. "I don't want to sow these wild oats/I want to tend them," she sings on "Wild Oats," one of 16 tracks on Live at the Cactus Cafe (Popped Corn Records). Hunt brims with rare confidence in "Sugar," "Walk Away," and the tellingly titled "Woman on Fire." Locate your fire extinguisher. You'll want to keep an eye on this one.
Jordan Whitmore's EP Consider It Done spins its title track as a wink to Sixties girl groups, an indie dose of Motown then appearing in her acoustic take of Smokey Robinson's "I Second That Emotion." She still sounds thoroughly modern, which speaks well for Whitmore's writing and alluring vocals.
Caldera arrives as Raina Rose's fifth LP, her evocative balladry framed by moody imagery and thoughtful lyrics ("Secret," "Woodsmoke"). Her tendency toward well-crafted Americana/indie folk-pop well suits her sooty voice and sound, especially with such guests as Danny Malone and Scrappy Jud Newcomb adding their spice to the mix.
Soulhat's Kevin McKinney produced Late Bloomer for contemporary folk-rocker Cheryl Murdock, who makes no apologies about not being 22. Instead, her years of waiting to record while teaching music to teens make this debut a solid listening pleasure ("Recklessly," "Silence"), as capable of rocking as it is tender.
Emily Bell can lay claim to one of the best albums of 2013 in Technicolor. It's a wild romp, led by the singer's oh-so-appealing voice ("Sweet Crushed Angel," "Hey Baby," "Back to the Way I Was"), lightly reminiscent of Amy Winehouse's retro-blues and soul, but carrying a dynamic Southern rock muscle.
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