On KT Tunstall's new album, "Invisible Empire//Crescent Moon", the Scottish singer-songwriter's pop-rock energy has mellowed quite a bit. The album is full of lush but understated Americana tunes, no doubt benefiting from her decision to record with Giant Sand's Howe Gelb in an Arizona studio.
Gelb's production and instrumentation are stunning. Opening track "Invisible Empire" begins as a solo acoustic number, but the addition of piano and backing vocals gives a tender warmth to the plaintive tune. The haunting "Waiting on the Heart" features a full arrangement that's reminiscent of Calexico, while the blurry "Crescent Moon" is anchored by Tunstall's piano melody.
Tunstall's songs are tinged with sadness. Weaving throughout the album are reflections on the death of her father, a friend, and her marriage. But "Invisible Empire//Crescent Moon" never feels mopey; even some of the darker songs have an uptempo spin. "Honeydew" buries pensive lyrics behind a breezy melody, and "Feel It All" shifts from bluesy verses to sweeter, more hopeful choruses.
"Invisible Empire//Crescent Moon" doesn't have the same overt energy as Tunstall's earlier recordings. But these delicate reflections convey the same strength and power she has always had, with a more thoughtful maturity.
-- Catherine P. Lewis