Editors' pick

Carol Bui


Editorial Review

Album review: "Red Ship"

D.C.-bred singer-guitarist Carol Bui relocated to the Seattle area last year, and her new album reveals an updated sound. But the geographic shift is unconnected to the musical one. The assured "Red Ship" was recorded at Arlington's Inner Ear with some of Bui's longtime collaborators, and it shows interests she developed before leaving town: drumming and belly dancing.

The swaggering album opener, "Mira: You're Free With Me," is typical of Bui's current approach. It's a rocker, with assertive guitar and vivid, double-tracked vocals. Yet it also includes a brief percussion aside whose flavor is unmistakably Middle Eastern. Bui plays drums on all nine songs but drops guitar for two of them, including a thumping version of "Hayati Inta," a tune originally recorded by Egyptian-Belgian singer (and sometime belly dancer) Natacha Atlas.

The stark, muscular songs are sweetened by full-bodied choruses and, about half the time, cello and violin, which blend European motifs with hints of Bui's Vietnamese background. So many influences could have overloaded the music, but Bui and co-producer T.J. Lipple keep the sound airy. "Red Ship" is so deftly balanced, in fact, that it almost sounds as if there's room for a few more of Bui's interests.

— Mark Jenkins, March 2011