The only constants in the 20-plus-year career of Meshell Ndegeocello are brilliance and an output that dependably moves back and forth between experimental, critically acclaimed projects and more accessible, widely embraced work. For every movie soundtrack contribution, funk/soul track that manages to break through to radio, and performance with the Rolling Stones, there is a more challenging undertaking, such as 2007’s excellent but nearly impenetrable “The World Has Made Me the Man of My Dreams” or 2005’s “Dance of the Infidel,” a collaborative instrumental jazz album.
Whether the variety is carefully planned or the natural cycle of a complex artist determined to explore every creative urge is hard to say. But it makes perfect sense that Ndegeocello would follow 2009’s “Devil’s Halo,” the most broadly appealing album she has recorded in years, and her recent Gett Off: Meshell Ndegeocello Covers Prince tour, with “Weather,” an album that finds the songwriter/singer/bass god playing with a palette of small, delicate sounds but using them to powerful effect.
“Feeling for the Wall” is a wrenching love song that will remind fans of Ndegeocello’s popular “Outside Your Door” but writ small. The vocals are almost whispered, the instrumental work downright wispy. “Dirty World,” the lead single, is one of the few tracks on the album where Ndegeocello’s fierce bass work is on display, but it’s enough to hook the casual listener and get her to give the quiet yet mighty music — including the beachy “Oysters” and a cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Chelsea Hotel” — a try.
Ndegeocello ends the understated collection with “Don’t Take My Kindness for Weakness,” where she softly murmurs lines such as “Just ’cause I’m gentle doesn’t mean I’m not strong.” The song works as a perfect summation of “Weather” as a whole and also nicely prepares listeners for whatever bold, loud project Ndegeocello is sure to come roaring back with.
“Oysters,” “Chelsea Hotel,”