The tracks are shorter and the solos are briefer but the restrained instrumentation...
Kathryn Shackleton 2007
In contrast to his recent albums (You Inspire Me and I Think It’s Going To Rain Today) Curtis Stigers’ Real Emotional is more of a country-blues collection. The tracks are shorter and the solos are briefer but the restrained instrumentation gives Stigers’ voice plenty of space to charm.
Emotional it may be, but there’s no theatrical wailing and gnashing of teeth here. Curtis has the knack of sounding natural and even offhand when he sings - as if he’s talking with a friend. On his self-penned and quietly despairing ‘I Need You’, he shows how powerful a whisper can be. His rough-diamond voice takes on a dark edginess, and on Emmylou Harris’s ‘‘I Don’t Want to Talk About It Now’’ (a disturbing glimpse into a damaging relationship) simple but funky Hammond organ and bass lines draw together to support Curtis’s raw vocals.
It’s clear that these songs have been chosen for their lyrics. Randy Newman, Bob Dylan and Tom Waits already feature in Curtis’s back catalogue, and they reappear here. Newman’s ‘'Real Emotional Girl'’ is a delicate story of deep feelings exposed, which Curtis attacks with passion as his voice soars over pared-down piano. Paul Simon’s pearl of a song ‘‘American Tune’’ is another great choice, brought alive by a heartfelt patriotism and a great feel for dynamics.
There’s a Norah Jonesness in the soft bass, country piano and accordion on ‘‘I Only Want to Be With You’’ and ‘‘A Woman Just Like You’’ – both written by Curtis. This should be no surprise, though, as Stigers’ keyboard player and songwriting partner Larry Goldings plays in Norah Jones’s band, while keeping one foot firmly in the jazz camp.
Real Emotional focuses unashamedly on ballads. It’s a winner, because in Curtis Stigers own words he ‘lets the songs do the work; just sings those incredible lyrics and gets out of the way’.