'4th Street Feeling'
By Catherine P. Lewis
Friday, November 2, 2012
Melissa Etheridge hasn’t changed much about the core of her sound during her 25-year career. Her 12th and most recent studio album, “4th Street Feeling,” features the same passionate lyrics and hoarse vocals that made such early singles as “Come to My Window” and “I’m the Only One” so distinctive.
But that’s not to say she’s stuck in a rut. The wailing rocker “Sympathy” and the sparse and bluesy “Rock and Roll Me” are both immediately recognizable but still offer a fresh take on her classic sound. “Falling Up” is a jangly pop song with a country tinge thanks to a banjitar, while a piano balances her pain on “A Disaster.” The album’s highlight is opening track “Kansas City,” which finds Etheridge sultrily recalling a youthful roadtrip, her vocals growing more and more urgent as the song progresses.
Not all of the songs, however, are so memorable. Etheridge sounds strained on the tangy funk of “Be Real,” and the folksy “Enough Rain” is too soft-spoken for someone with her guts. Still, for every failed risk she takes, there’s one that pays off: “The Shadow of a Black Crow” balances easy pop/rock choruses with bluesy verses that rumble more ominously than Etheridge’s standard fare. It’s not a huge departure, but it’s enough to add an intriguing nuance to her established sound.