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Album Review

Melissa Etheridge, 'Fearless Love'

April 26, 2010

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Twenty-plus years into a lauded career seems like a weird time to finally be taking stock of the contemporary rock scene for influence, but it’s hard not to hear echoes of the charging arena shimmer of hit-makers Kings of Leon (or Coldplay, for that matter) in the title track of “Fearless Love.’’ It’s a cascade of delay-drenched guitars buoyed by a thrusting kick and snare so huge each record should come packaged with its own rapturous audience. Perhaps the mother of four has been scrolling through her children’s iPods? Etheridge has spoken about her intention to utilize harder-rocking influences on her 10th album, and she makes good on that promise for the most part. “Miss California’’ turns on a gritty Jimmy Page riff, “Indiana’’ is a throttling pop-rock burner, and “Nervous’’ is a swampy, stomping blues rocker. Even acoustic ballads like “To Be Loved’’ devolve into a thicket of guitar heroics. Most of the moments of quiet introspection sag, though. It’s only in those heavier numbers where Etheridge’s best asset, her scarred, emotive croon works its visceral voodoo. When the power of the band matches her trademark vocal intensity the songs, and the listener, come alive. (Out tomorrow) LUKE O’NEIL

ESSENTIAL “Fearless Love’’