WeMustBe, the eponymous debut by Christine Dominguez and T. Xiques, is a rare gift; an initial release brimming with a confidence that’s backed up by the songs and performance.
The duo’s multi-instrumentalism is clearly a key feature of both their sound and live performance, as their electronic press kit includes a detailed sketch of their stage setup right down to the fancy rug. But while some artists might sacrifice their vision in an effort to show their skills, nothing here is wasted.
WeMustBe features 11 original songs and one cover, Michael Jackson’s “Human Nature.” It’s a testament to the strength of the partnership that the cover is such a seamless fit that I wasn’t even sure it was a cover at all until my girlfriend walked into the room and said, “Isn’t that a Michael Jackson song?”
Dominguez has the kind of soulful voice that could cause an avalanche of swoons, and on songs like “Minutemore,” where the music is like a soft heartbeat, it’s so intimate it might make you blush.
“Les Luttes” is a near misstep, with Dominguez mixing French and English vocals. The music, including an evocative and lush flute, is simply too strong to let it slip out of control.
By combining the urban “Rimshot” aesthetic of Erykah Badu and the intellectual poetry of Fiona Apple, WeMustBe has hit upon an entirely new vein in the Hudson Valley music scene, one where every brushstroke is vital. WeMustBe is a terrific debut by two established musicians coming together in perfect harmony. —Crispin Kott
JANIE CHRISTENSEN—PAINTED BIRDS(independent)
Janie Christensen’s biography indicates a life spent absorbing music in some of the great places in the world to do just that. Born in Paris, raised in New York City and upstate New York, Christensen’s development also included listening to radio stations playing music from around the globe. The notion of all those different styles being strained through a filter might sound a bit daunting for a listener, but Painted Birds is a cohesive album, with elements of smooth European gloss and placid tones of folk music at its core.
Painted Birds is the work of two musicians, with Christensen singing and playing piano as well as adding a rhythm guitar to one track, while Angelo Ficara was responsible for just about everything else, including drum programming and string arrangements. The pair work well together with material primarily composed by Christensen, and Painted Birds is an amiable collection of contemporary easy listening music. “Iceman” is representative of the up-tempo numbers, an almost ‘80s feel, as though Natalie Merchant was fronting Level 42. Elsewhere, “White House on the Beach” dips its toe into contemporary country music, while “Inside Your Heart” is evocative of the smoothness of Sade.
Painted Birds may include a wide range of influences, but the final product is definitely its own. —Crispin Kott
DAVID KRAAI & AMY LABER—FROM NEW ORLEANS TO THE MOON/BORDER SONG(Fine Country Folk Recordings)
Though they’ve each made a name for themselves as solo artists, David Kraai and Amy Laber have come together as a duo for the first time, with their initial salvo in the once-again-popular 7” single format.
The two-sided single is an ideal showcase for what the two bring to the partnership, with Laber taking lead vocals on the a-side and Kraai on its flip.
Laber, who also plays guitar and banjo, sings “From New Orleans to the Moon” with a countrified voice that likely represents the folk side of the coin. Kraai’s vocals, as heard on “Border Song,” are on the outlaw side of the spectrum, full of travels over dusty paths. Kraai also plays guitar, mandolin and harmonica, with the latter lending “From New Orleans to the Moon” a Dylanesque depth to the romantic melody. “Border Song” is at once sparser and a bit more ominous, somehow delivering all the power of a full electric band through the two musicians and their shared harmonies.
The limited edition vinyl single is available through their website, and comes with an individually numbered picture sleeve, a poster of original art by Kraai, and a digital download code for those who prefer to enjoy their music on the go. The website also features a free download of “You Can’t Trust,” on which Kraai and Laber trade vocals over a country shuffle that feels like a horse clip-clopping joyously down the trail. —Crispin Kott