Rachael Yamagata

Singer-Songwriters
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Editorial Review

RACHAEL YAMAGATA
Album review: "Chesapeake"

"I may never understand my heart," Rachael Yamagata laments on her third album, "Chesapeake." If not, it won't be for lack of trying. The Arlington-born Japanese American musician devotes most of her songs to plumbing love's mysteries. If she finds relationships generally disappointing, that doesn't dim her enthusiasm. In one of her liveliest songs, "Starlight," she offers to "jump from a moving train just to keep you."

Supervised by local producer John Alagia, "Chesapeake" ranges from bluesy rockers to string-swaddled ballads. Yamagata switches between piano and guitar, and her throaty vocals add grit to oversweetened numbers such as "You Won't Let Me." The album's sense of style wavers, but Yamagata's voice and sensibility hold things together.

It's that sensibility that will separate the singer's fans from potential detractors. Yamagata is a skilled composer and expressive vocalist whose lyrics can border on the obsessive. "I want my legacy to be / She did her best to give her love all that was needed," she sings in the country-tinged "Miles on a Car." Such declarations of dependence would be more engaging if Yamagata sometimes cut their earnestness with wit.

--Mark Jenkins, Oct. 28, 2011