Keri Noble's self-titled album isn't her debut, but it does signal a bit of a rebirth -- it's her first release on indie label Telarc, and the stellar opening track, "Watch Me Walk," is a self-confident number that captures the possibilities of starting over. Though it's framed as a breakup song, her take-charge sentiment ("This is the part where I start taking over") has universal applications, and her intensity, along with her vocal hoarseness, evokes the personable style of Melissa Etheridge.
"Keri Noble" has a few other bold moments: The gospel backup singers on the horn-accented "Go Proud" recall her religious upbringing as the daughter of a Baptist preacher, while the soaring "Emily" conveys a woman's internal struggle (the song kicked off a recent episode of "Grey's Anatomy").
Noble also knows how to tone down her volume without hiding the heart she wears on her sleeve. The pensive piano ballad "Ooh-Oh" conveys a world of emotions in just those two syllables, while the breathy "Word Got Out" laments a relationship that may never be.
Even at quiet volumes, Noble still sings from her gut, while singer-pianist Rachael Sage maintains a breathy coo throughout her eighth album, "Chandelier." Sage has a few interesting lyrical phrasings, and her lively piano melodies ("Vertigo," "Wishbone") recall some of Vanessa Carlton's more innovative numbers. Too often, though, her pounding piano lines are too heavy for her airy voice, leaving some of her songs ("Invincible," "Blue Light") sounding a bit overwrought.
-- Catherine P. Lewis