For those Jennifer Nettles fans who have been listening to her for years as the lead singer of Sugarland and have also brought all of her solo albums, they may be happy to learn that the legendary singer has released a new album this week entitled Always Like New. What may come to a surprise though to those fans is that this Jennifer Nettles album sounds nothing like anything she’s ever released before. When this writer purchased her new album, I was somewhat surprised when I heard the opening tune. It sounded almost like a different singer. I’ve always been a really big Jennifer Nettles fan. She’s one of my favorite singers because she has such a genuine appeal in her vocal style. There’s a resonance in that voice that always seem to balance a bit of mischief and love delivered with pitch perfect vocal lines full of grit. She has always been one of those great singers one could never get tired off. Nonetheless, Jennifer Nettles has taken a giant leap from the safety of the country pop music genre and released an album filled with songs from the great American Songbook. Basically a Broadway album. On her new album Jennifer Nettles sounds more like Barbra Streisand than Jennifer Nettles.
Jennifer Nettles is not the first country pop singer to turn to a Broadway album. Linda Ronstadt was basically the first really well known pop star who did it forty years ago when she released an album of standards entitled What’s New. Since then, its has become a common occurrence among rock stars to release standards albums. Mr Rod Stewart released a ton of them as well as Boz Scaggs and many others. So in a way it’s not really that big of a deal that Jennifer Nettles has released a standards album. Yet it really is a big deal. And the reason why it’s such a big deal is not the fact that it’s a standards album, it’s the fact that Jennifer Nettles sings unlike she has ever sung before on this album. We have always loved her voice like we said in the opening, but we think many other people may have never realized just how fabulously trained of a singer Jennifer Nettles is, and has become. On her new album Always Like New Jennifer Nettles delivers a vocal performance on ten songs that sets a new standard for standards albums.
I played this album a few times before I decided to write a review of it. It’s one of those albums that with every repeated listen just gets better and better as all of her brilliant vocal runs and lines hit you harder with each repeated listen. Like in her country music when she is able to convince the listener that every word she sings is true, Jennifer Nettles wraps her voice around you heart as you nod, yes I understand. She is just one of those individual artists that has that gift of delivering a song straight to the soul like a Frank Sinatra, a Bruce Springsteen or a Carole King. You believe every word they say, every word they sing.
Always Like New was recorded in 2019. The album was finished on March 12 2020. The next day New York’s Broadway pretty much closed down. It seems fitting that as Broadway begins to reopen in June of 2021 with Bruce Springsteen’s return to Broadway opening this week, Jennifer Nettles has released this spectacular tribute to Broadway album in helping to celebrate the slow return to normalcy after this treacherous pandemic.
The Always Like New album opens up with a song from the legendary Broadway show My Fair Lady. The song Wouldn’t It Be Loverly” presents a Jennifer Nettles we have never heard before. Perhaps the closest we have come to hearing the voice Jennifer Nettles sings on these songs was the work she did on her Christmas album. On the album’s next track Jennifer Nettles delivers another Broadway classic with a song from the Guys and Dolls play called “Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat.” This is probably the closest Jennifer Nettles get to her country roots on the album.
The album’s third track is one of the modern Broadway songs recorded for the album. Taken from perhaps the hardest Broadway ticket to get in the past ten years, Jennifer delivers a wonderful rendition of the song Wait For It,” from the Broadway Play Hamilton. The song’s intro seems to reminds us a bit of The Allman Brothers Band “Midnight Rider,. This is the last song on the album to even come close to Jennifer Nettles country rock pop roots in the way the song was arranged and in some of Jennifer Nettles vocal inflections.
On the album’s fourth track Jennifer Nettles shift gears dramatically from the Hamilton song to the classic song “Almost Like Being In Love.” The song was originally written for the 1954 Broadway Play Brigadoon. Jennifer Nettles will warm your heart with her performance on this one making a song that’s almost seventy years old sound brand new.
On the album’s fifth cut Jennifer Nettles delivers a stirring version of the song “It All Fades Away,” from the Broadway Musical The Bridges of Madison County. The albums next track returns Jennifer to the countryside of life Broadway style, with the song “There’s a Sucker Born Ev’ry Minute,” It’s taken from the Broadway play musical entitled Barnum. It’s after this song where we are greeted with perhaps the album’s standout track. Jennifer Nettles delivers a stunning gospel performance of the classic Oscar Hammerstein and Richard Rodgers song “Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin.” Taken from the old Broadway Play Oklahoma!, Jennifer Nettles version of this song should be the one that all future versions are compared too. This is just an incredible recording that will knock you out. Producer Alex Lacamoire should win a Grammy Award for his arrangement and production of this recording.
With such a stunning number, Jennifer Nettles and Alex Lacamoire play it smart by bringing it down on the album’s next track entitled “Anyone Can Whistle,” from the Broadway play of the same name. The singer and producer return to glory on the next track and one of the best on the album with an amazing version of the song “You Will Be Found,” from the great Broadway Play Dear Evan Hansen. The album than closes with a tender recording of the Annie classic “Tomorrow,” which pretty much just sums it all up perfectly.
As we begin our return to normalcy there is just something so sweet and special about this album that seems to be extending an open hand to all of us. Great artists rise to the occasion when they are needed. This one just feels so right!
Jennifer Nettles New CD ‘Always Like New’ Is Just What We Need review published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2021
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