LENI STERN

"When Evening Falls"

LSR

"I am hopeful, I am sad, I am human, I am mad . . . can you hear me calling?" asks singer-songwriter and guitarist Leni Stern at the beginning of her new CD. Turns out she is all these things here and something more: inspired. Recent travels to Africa, India, Louisiana and elsewhere infuse "When Evening Falls" with a surprising array of colors, textures and rhythms to match Stern's mood swings.

Those moods range from the prayerful (a yearning peace anthem serves as the CD's title track) to the playful ("Ice Cold Water $1" is awash with Crescent City chatter and funk.) Sandwiched in between are numerous reasons to stayed tuned, including a shimmering and unabashedly sentimental reprise of the pop standard "I'll Be Seeing You," which features some elegant guitar work, and "Dancin' With the Devil," a rueful, ironic ballad about drug addiction.

The most entrancing tracks, however, reflect Stern's travels abroad. Both "House on a Hill" and "Abke Hum Bichere," inspired by stays in India, are quick to cast spells. The former is distinguished by chanting vocals, undulating rhythms and a slice of village life lyric, while the latter tune boasts a keening, hypnotic vocal by Dhanashree Pandit Rai. The Kenya-flavored "Oje Mama" is another treat, an imaginatively looped and sampled tale of tribal sorcery. Throughout, Stern is surrounded by musicians who share her eclectic tastes and make her stories and soundscapes all the more intriguing.

-- Mike Joyce

Appearing Thursday at Blues Alley.* To hear a free Sound Bite from Leni Stern, call Post-Haste at 301-313-2200 and press 8108. (Prince William residents, call 703-690-4110.)