New CD reviews: Haden Triplets, Toni Braxton & Babyface

  • Updated: February 17, 2014 - 2:27 PM

country

The Haden Triplets, “The Haden Triplets” (Third Man)

What possible street cred could there be in a roots-country record sung by three New York-born, Los Angeles-reared sisters and produced by a guy who grew up in Santa Monica? Plenty, when the singers are Petra, Tanya and Rachel Haden, the triplet daughters of jazz luminary Charlie Haden, and that producer happens to be Ry Cooder.

It’s worth knowing that before the triplets’ dad earned his stripes in the jazz world, he spent many years performing country music with his family throughout the Midwest — a history he tapped in his 2008 album, “Rambling Boy,” for which Tanya and Rachel were along for the musical ride.

So, no big surprise that his offspring absorbed a fondness for songs they tackle here such as the Carter Family’s “Single Girl, Married Girl,” the 1955 Kitty Wells hit “Making Believe” and the Louvin Brothers’ existentially heartbreaking “When I Stop Dreaming.” They’re not utterly rooted in old-timey selections, however: They also take on Nick Lowe’s sweet “Raining Raining.”

Cooder’s production is fittingly raw, putting no phony gloss on songs brimming with heart-on-sleeve honesty. Petra Haden has created a cottage industry with multitracked recordings showcasing the versatility of her own voice, but in tandem with her sisters, the vocal lines bring to bear the power of family harmony that’s long been an important foundation of traditional country music. The Haden Triplets carry on that tradition marvelously.

Randy Lewis, Los Angeles Times

R&B

Toni Braxton and Babyface, “Love, Marriage & Divorce” (Motown)

Teary, weary and smooth, Babyface pretty much invented the new-school/ old-school sleek (but not slick) romantic adult R&B genre when he penned “Grown & Sexy.” Braxton’s powerfully tender, pleading voice could summon rain on the sunshiniest day. One thing that unites the pair is that each has gone through the pain of public divorce. That’s why, 22 years after their “Give U My Heart” duet, Braxton and Babyface return with a bold, soul-soaked take on the state of separation.

Harking back to Motown’s Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell glory days, the duo simmer through love’s troubles (“Where Did We Go Wrong”) and steam up the guilt-ridden “Hurt You” as if having a conversation over snifters of Drambuie. The wrung-out emotionalism of “Roller Coaster” is matched by the seductive swerve of “Sweat.” These two are masters at such romantic rope-a-dope. Each singer goes it alone (BabyFace’s “I Hope That You’re Okay” and Braxton’s “I’d Rather Be Broke” are best), but dramatic duets such as the pleading “Take It Back” cut deepest.

A.D. Amorosi, Philadelphia Inquirer

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