July 25, 2005 12:00 PM

Dreaming Wide Awake

Bright sounds and bluesy originals put Lizz Wright’s 2003 debut Salt near the top of contemporary jazz lists while earning the amber-voiced singer favorable comparisons to Cassandra Wilson and Nina Simone. This time out, she mixes a rootsy, folk-rock directness with smooth jazz ease, bringing a nuanced verve to a few of her own songs and a fervor that recharges such musty fare as Neil Young’s “Old Man” and the Youngbloods’ “Get Together,” remembered for its famous call for people to “try and love one another right now.” With sumptuous guitar work upfront and soulful organ chords behind, Wright’s voice emerges as an irresistible force of clarity and emotion. The affecting results range from the seductive opener, “A Taste of Honey” (a 1965 hit for Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass), to Joe Henry’s compelling ballad “Stop.” Just beware: For all her relaxed sophistication, Wright often treads a line between what’s mellow and what’s sleepy. So enjoy Dreaming, but not while operating heavy machinery.

DOWNLOAD THIS: “A Taste of Honey”

R&B

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