Kristina Train - Spilt Milk

Kristina Train
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Oh those adult music fans.  After years of neglect by the major record labels, they're suddenly in vogue again, because -- now this is quaint -- they actually buy music, especially CDs, rather than simply download it for free.  So artists like Michael Buble, Andrea Bocelli, Josh Groban and the new club member, Susan Boyle, not only sell CDs, they are virtually the only artists who can go platinum anymore.  The trick, of course, is that adult audiences aren't homogeneous and, despite David Foster's attempts, there is no sure fire formula for success with them.  For every Susan Boyle project there are five failed attempts to connect with the now-sexy 30- and 40-somethings.

Oh those adult music fans.  After years of neglect by the major record labels, they're suddenly in vogue again, because -- now this is quaint -- they actually buy music, especially CDs, rather than simply download it for free.  So artists like Michael Buble, Andrea Bocelli, Josh Groban and the new club member, Susan Boyle, not only sell CDs, they are virtually the only artists who can go platinum anymore.  The trick, of course, is that adult audiences aren't homogeneous and, despite David Foster's attempts, there is no sure fire formula for success with them.  For every Susan Boyle project there are five failed attempts to connect with the now-sexy 30- and 40-somethings.

Enter Kristina Train, a talented singer/songwriter who signed as a teenager with Blue Note Records about the same time that Norah Jones was printing money for the label with her breakthrough debut CD.  Seven years and a college degree later, Train and producers Jimmy Hogarth (Amy Winehouse) and Eg White (James Morrison) have put together her debut, Spilt Milk.  One listen to the title cut explains why Blue Note was so excited about the young chanteuse. Train's voice is quite an instrument. Elements of many of the truly great pop and soul singers of the last 50 years weave in and out of her expressions. At one moment she displays the bluesy ache of Bonnie Raitt and the next soars like Dusty Springfield. Jazzy in tone but with a sense of drama, she sounds like Norah Jones' high-maintenance younger sister.  While Norah was tempering her jazz tendencies by listening to Dolly Parton, Kristina was likely feeling Andrew Lloyd Webber or Chicago (both the band and the stageplay). 

That sense of drama is both the charm and sometimes the undoing of Spilt Milk. Many of the album's tracks begin with the lazy comfort of a Janita or Norah J song, but almost none stay there.  Nearly on cue, one by one the songs develop into big ballads, complete with layered string sections, horns and even the occasional choir to add tension.  And while the contrast works beautifully when it is tempered, such as on the title track and the jazzy "Don't Beg For Love," on too many of the songs Train sounds like her finger is on the knob, just itching to turn it up to eleven.   "No Man's Land" and "It's Over Now" are so strong musically that they overcome the bombast, but listeners are simply worn out by the time Train gets to a lesser cuts like "Call In The Maker." Through it all Train shows she is a talent, with the album's best moments being so promising that the misfires are all the more disappointing, sounding like loud commercials on cable TV that interrupt your favorite show.

When the consummate adult soul artist, Anita Baker, first arose, she was all voice, not having captured the sense of nuance that would come with later releases.  But her development in the relatively short time between "No More Tears" and "Giving You The Best That I've Got" was striking. Train is actually closer to a great finished product than a 1982 Baker was, but the question is whether she can discover the subtlety -- even the occasional absence of dramatic expression -- that will make her a truly compelling artist.  My guess is she will, and soon. There's no doubt that she's fun to listen to, even when a bit overwrought. But it is the ultimate finished product that will be something to see. Recommended. 

By Chris Rizik

 

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