Judy Cooper Lyle of Minneapolis:
1 Tony Bennett, State Theatre. What a wonderful way to spend my birthday. Chills, as Frank Sinatra (great idea!) came over the speakers introducing him. Bennett was in fine voice, and we loved him.
2 Leyla McCalla, “Vari-Colored Songs.” She has graced us with a beautiful CD that pays tribute by setting music to Langston Hughes’ poetry. Her dusky voice seems just what Hughes had in mind. She’ll be at the Dakota on June 16. I’ll be there.
3 Sandra Booker, Los Angeles. I was delighted to take in the crystal clear vocals of this divine singer in an L.A. club. Her stylings are effortless, impeccable. She quite wrapped the notes around me like a cool drink on a hot day. She will be among those entertaining the president at the White House in September.
Jon Bream of the Star Tribune:
1 Kesha, “It Ain’t Me Babe.” Dressed in a Nudie-styled Western suit, the newly understated pop star did an understated version of this Bob Dylan tune at the Billboard Awards. Yes, Kesha can sing; she’s not Dr. Luke’s electro-pop puppet.
2 Bobby Lyle and Billy Peterson, Crooners. The pianist and bassist listened to each other and communicated with their instruments, whether it was on untitled Lyle originals or such standards as “Summertime” and “Caravan.” Lyle offered creative embellishments but never lost track of the melody. His churchy reading of “Purple Rain” connected with its heartfelt passion.
3 Dierks Bentley, “Can’t Be Replaced.” The final, Kenny Chesney-like song on his new album, “Black,” is a winner that envelops teenage memories, a kiss and a special friend.