Street Sounds: Connick Jr. stirs the gumbo

Harry Connick Jr. relinquishes production control on his 20-something album, That Would Be Me, and gets some good offbeat results.

The prolific singer/songwriter/keyboardist Harry Connick Jr. relinquishes production control on his 20-something album, That Would Be Me, and gets some good offbeat results.

The album was recorded in London and Nashville with Eg White (Florence + The Machine, Adele) and Butch Walker (Taylor Swift, Katy Perry), respectively.  Connick Jr.’s New Orleans roots trump the other locales and his jazz/R&B leanings are enhanced by the input.

Ideas get in the way of songs early on, but the album connects on the third track, Tryin to Matter. This song is typical for Connick Jr. and he reaches out to the gumbo R&B balladry that New Orleans is famous for.

The album stays close to that sound, slightly amped up, but the curveball is showbiz material like the tolerably schmaltzy Songwriter (Barry Manilow on steroids). It has energy and Connick Jr. conjures up mojo from his Nola roots and testifies in performances that are gritty and colourful.

You Don’t Need a Man and Do You Really Need Her are confessional songs that don’t worry about being vulnerable. The producers and Connick Jr. stay righteously close to the regional sound that informs the best of his material.

Where Prisoners Drown moves up the Mississippi a ways to get some of Bobbi Gentry’s southern gothic vibe before drifting back down. Songs like that and Tryin’ to Matter reveal a deeper, darker character in Connick Jr.’s sound that makes his sunnier Stevie Wonder type songs like Every Time I Fall  in Love more interesting than they actually are.

Overall, That Would Be Me is an extra vivid snapshot of Connick Jr.’s Louisiana jazz-pop, R&B sound.

– Dean Gordon-Smith reviews the latest music releases for The Morning Star every Friday.