Kirsten Thien's infectious third album Delicious is the first of what I'm sure will be several 2010 records I somehow missed upon their initial arrival. I've spent the last couple weeks making up for lost time, filing this away in the "better late than never" folder.
Delicious is a beguiling record because of the contradictions in Thien's presentation. Her voice conveys so much with so little effort at its best. She mixes equal parts charm, sweetness, and sensuality while exuding charm, charisma, and kindness.
It takes an elastic mind to fit some of these songs beneath the contemporary blues umbrella because those underpinnings lie beneath bright production and cosmopolitan shine. Thien isn't aiming for the trad blues sound so a little gloss is fine, even if it sounds too shiny at times. Her presence is engaging enough to make you cheer for her on the good material and root for her even when a song misses the mark slightly or just doesn't work.
There are moments that miss but those are easy to set aside for moments like "Love That's Made To Share," a song that evokes Bonnie Raitt's "Something To Talk About." It's not that Thien sounds so much like Raitt – although the vocal comparison on this track isn't a bad one – but the song, arrangement, and vocal has that feel. It's a great way to open the album and stands as one of its best tracks. "Nobody's Ever Loved Me Like You Do" has a similar arrangement, punctuating Thien's great vocal with horns and quick guitar licks subtly mixed. These first two songs are ideal uses of her gifts.
"Please Drive" features legendary guitarist Hubert Sumlin on guitar and finds Thien playing a different role. She plays it well vocally and the music simmers with suggestive, racy heat but the effects are blunted by some occasionally clumsy lyrics.
The title track, "Wild Women Don't Have The Blues," and "A Woman Knows" return her to more solid ground. "Wild Women Don't Have The Blues" teams Thien's voice with her acoustic guitar and some nice harp work from Billy Gibson. It's the most downhome sounding track on the record and is quite effective. The more urban, nightclub sounding tracks are her forte but "Wild Women" is evidence she has the versatility to change pace.
Delicious succeeds as much on charisma as it does songs. There is something immensely likable about the sum that exceeds the impact of what these individual parts should add up to. She's a gifted singer with enough writing know-how for part of a record but might do well to team with other writers to generate enough material for an entire album. The results are indeed delicious when all the ingredients are mixed but her most satisfying meal lies ahead of her.