JESSE HARRIS AND THE FERDINANDOS
"While the Music Lasts"
Recommending the latest Corrs CD is easy enough, given the right audience. Celtic music devotees? No. Fans of Wilson Phillips is more like it.
On "Borrowed Heaven" their fourth studio release, the Irish siblings turn in a series of lushly harmonized and often cleverly arranged pop diversions. Starting with the pulsating hit single "Summer Sunshine," the quartet makes the most of Andrea Corr's chirpy vocals, along with big-kick choruses and layered productions. Pond-hopping colors eventually surface here and there, but Celtic influences always play second fiddle to the band's pop ambitions, which is one of the reasons why "Borrowed Heaven" often comes across as a spirited, polished but ultimately soulless affair.
Notable exceptions are the Bono co-penned "Time Enough for Tears," a dreamy interlude composed for the Jim Sheridan film "In America," and "Goodbye," Sharon Corr's elegy for her late mom. As for the band's routine collaboration with Ladysmith Black Mambazo on the album's title track, or the hip-hop-tinted "Humdrum," these tunes don't find the Corrs stretching out so much as sounding stretched thin.
Jesse Harris, who will probably go to his grave known as the author of the Norah Jones hit "Don't Know Why," is emerging as something more than just a prolific tunesmith. "When the Music Lasts," his second CD, marks a big step forward for the New York-based singer-songwriter and his resourceful band, the Ferdinandos. Jones lends a hand, adding piano and harmony vocals, but the contributions made by two other guests -- guitarist Bill Frisell and accordionist-arranger Van Dyke Parks -- are far more defining and entertaining. Charmingly offbeat, they help compensate for Harris's inert tenor and colorfully accent the impressive songcraft he displays on "I Never Changed My Mind," "Mirror Ball" and other tracks.
-- Mike Joyce
Appearing Wednesday at Wolf Trap; Jesse Harris appears at Iota on Aug. 31. * To hear a free Sound Bite from the Corrs, call Post-Haste at 301-313-2200 and press 8107; to hear Jesse Harris, press 8108. (Prince William residents, call 703-690-4110.)