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No Regrets

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Album Review

Elisabeth Withers had built up some career momentum, breaking through from being a backup singer to earning a Tony nomination for The Color Purple and issuing her debut solo album, It Can Happen to Anyone on Blue Note in 2007 when she decided to take a hiatus after discovering that she was spending so much time on her career that her young daughter thought the nanny was her mommy. Having achieved a better balance between her personal and professional lives, she is back three-and-three-quarters years later with No Regrets, on which she seems to be trying to strike a different kind of balance, that between an old-school soul singer like Anita Baker and a hip-hop/R&B singer like Beyoncé. As usual with this kind of disc, the vocalist puts herself in the hands of series of writer/producer/multi-instrumentalists (Bob Antoine, Ivan Barias, Barry Eastmond, Toby Gad, Peter Lord) who construct remarkably similar sounding musical tracks with overloud drum programming into which she gets shoehorned, alternately singing simplistic, self-affirming platitudes and love songs of the happy, unhappy, and hopeful varieties. Withers herself gets co-songwriting credit on many of the tracks, underscoring her acquiescence in this musical servitude. The most "commercial" (which is to say, the least original or interesting) tracks are sequenced upfront, and it's not until the middle of CD that the singer begins to throw off her shackles and show what she can do with her smoky alto. The sixth song, "Need Love," has more individuality than anything that has gone before; "Rock & Rain" has dancefloor possibilities; and "Bittersweet," a duet with Gordon Chambers, finds the two singers sparking each other to excellent effect. Songs like these give some indication of Withers' abilities and point to what this album could have been if she had trusted her talent more and her producers less.


Born: 1975 in Joliet, IL

Genre: R&B/Soul

Years Active: '00s

Best known for her Tony Award-nominated portrayal of Shug Avery in the Broadway musical version of The Color Purple, vocalist Elisabeth Withers is also a longtime singer/songwriter with a bent toward neo-soul and R&B. Born in Joliet, IL, Withers left home with a scholarship to study music at the Berklee School of Music in Boston. After graduating, she moved to New York City to attend NYU and graduated with a master's degree in 2000. Prior to her appearance on Broadway, Withers sang backup for a variety...
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No Regrets, Elisabeth Withers
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