Bob Dylan :: ‘Shadows In the Night’: Casual listeners may see Bob Dylan recording an album of Sinatra songs as a shock. More experienced fans will find Shadows in the Night less a departure and more a definitive statement of Bob Dylan at 73. Many of the songs have been on prior touring setlists, including “That Lucky Old Sun” and “Stay With Me.” Sinatra would have sung them with an orchestral arrangement; Dylan just uses his guitar-heavy touring band. That gives the album an air of intimacy, and inspires some of the most measured vocal work in his career. Close your eyes, lean back and, as Dylan croons “Some Enchanted Evening,” you just might find a wide smile breaking across your face.
Diana Krall :: ‘Wallflower’: Jazz artist Diana Krall has had a tough year and it shows in Wildflower, a melancholy but compelling set of pop and rock covers. Krall lost her father last year and Wallflower was delayed three months by her bout with pneumonia. Most of the covers are soft rock classics, so familiar it’s tough to make them sound unexpected. Krall achieves it. “California Dreamin’” opens the album with a bleakness that will chill the listener to the bone. Her whispery interpretation of the Carpenters’ “Superstar” makes the song compellingly self-reflective. When she’s joined by Michael Buble on Gilbert O’Sullivan’s “Alone Again (Naturally),” the simple, beautiful melody peeks through like never before. True, the album’s moodiness makes it feel longer than 12 songs. But in smaller doses, this is an elegant, worthy addition to the Diana Krall catalogue.
Hozier :: ‘hozier’: If you’ve missed Irish singer-songwriter Hozier’s breakout single “Take Me to Church,” you haven’t been paying attention. The lapsed-Catholic-blues anthem with an irresistible gospel hook was nominated for a Grammy, climbed to No. 2 on the charts and surely contributed to Hozier’s sold-out Riverside show on Feb. 21. Impressively, his self-titled debut, released last fall, rarely falls below “Take Me to Church’s” high bar. Devotees of fellow Irish troubadour Van Morrison will find much to love in Hozier. He gives a nod to rugged ’60s R&B on “Jackie and Wilson.” The haunting “Angel of Small Death and the Codeine Scene” digs deeper into the blues. The second half slows too much, but Hozier promises greater things to come.
George Ezra :: ‘Wanted On Voyage’: If the first time you heard British singer-songwriter George Ezra’s single “Budapest” you assumed he was a singer twice his 21 years, don’t feel bad. Ezra may be a contemporary of equally precocious songwriters Jake Bugg and Ed Sheeran, but his deep-throated voice better resembles Bob Dylan’s. In Wanted On Voyage, Ezra’s voice pairs disturbing lyrics with effortlessly sunny arrangements, with great effect. In one song, “Drawing Board,” he fantasizes about ways to rid himself of an absent lover — including a haircut with Sweeney Todd. George Ezra has topped charts at home in the U.K. and this constantly engaging debut is the perfect U.S. introduction.