album reviews

Marc Cohn
Join the Parade
Decca (2007)

Marc Cohn, 1991's best new artist Grammy winner and "Walking in Memphis" songwriter, hasn't abandoned his adult contemporary bluesy vibe on his latest album (and first studio effort in nearly a decade): There are enough songs about angels earning wings and hearing your calling from a ghost to satisfy any feel-good radio show call-in request. But Cohn is far more interesting when he branches out from the velvety-smooth sound that first made him famous. "Dance Back from the Grave," Cohn's scratchy spoken-word portrait of post-Katrina New Orleans, evokes Tom Waits, and his gravelly narration grows into an impassioned command of "Dance back!" that conveys strength and power.

Cohn draws inspiration from Katrina several times on "Join the Parade" (the pleading title track has a more somber tone), but one of his most touching songs comes from a moment decades ago. On "Listening to Levon," he recalls being so captivated by the Band's Levon Helm that he cannot focus on his high school girlfriend's chatter. Cohn captures with tenderness and nostalgia the awkward teenage sensation of being more in love with the tune on the car radio than the girl in the front seat.

-- Catherine P. Lewis

.: Originally published: The Washington Post: 18 January 2008, Page WE08
.: Join the Parade on