Some records feel claustrophobic, determined to pack in more instruments, more words, more stuff. By the end, there's not much air left in the room--for better or worse, I guess, depending on how you feel about light-headedness.
On the other hand, there's this second release from Chapel Hill's Yasmine White, an album with plenty of room to breathe between notes, especially on the exceptionally spacious first half. As a result, the spotlight is on White's expressive, versatile vocals as well as her songwriting, which isn't shy about exploring the deals that we make with each other and with ourselves in the name of love and need.
It's a credit to the core band--producer Wes Lachot on keys, drummer Evans Nicholson, bassist Matt Brandau and veteran guitarist Will MacFarlane (who'd be the alpha player at almost any session in town)--and high-profile guests Beverly Botsford and Caitlin Cary that they are able to work so well together and build this simpatico stage for White. And credit White for ensuring that each song has its own distinct personality, from the crisp backbeat and shadowy blips of "In My Mind" and the dreamy acoustic twirl of "See Her Whirl" to the soulful, sax-visited closer "Don't Come to Me" and the comparatively thumping "I Almost Trusted You," which claims an intriguing middle ground between Joan Armatrading and Alanis Morissette.
The closest that any song comes to being disappointing is the album's one true rocker, "Loneliness." When White reaches the chorus, you're poised for her to roar, but she seems to hold back. However, the ambitious "Love" more than makes up for any temporary setbacks. It finds a way to blend pop-ballad piano, R&B organ, country-soul guitar and torchy vocals from White, while keeping the whole enterprise afloat for over six minutes. In this case, it's the altitude that'll take your breath away.
Get your hands around the disc at www.yasmusic.com .