Given that Laurie Antonioli launched her career in the 1970s, it's little surprise that her voice has coarsened over time. She now has the deep, earthy pipes of a singer who came up listening to a lot of Joni Mitchell, but eventually forayed into world music. Ergo, "Samba Nada Brahma," the fast, tricky Latin opener to Antonioli's latest, American Dreams. She belts the first saba ba dayu ba in tandem with soprano saxophonist Sheldon Brown, who glides through his solo with snakey allure. The remaining tunes hew a lot closer to the American songbook. Poaching from Rodgers & Hammerstein musicals and patriotic hymns, Antonioli puts her own spin on the old amber waves of grain. In the process, she alters chord changes, shifts rhythms, and dials back the pageantry.
American Dreams appears to have two sections. The first is more ruminative. It jostles between genres, mixing Latin with heartsick blues, and adding a quirky tune about financial woes. The last five songs sound more traditional. Among them is guitarist Dave McNab's beautifully arranged interpretation of "America the Beautiful," which Antonioli renders as a gospel number. She also turns "Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin'" from Oklahoma!, into a smooth-jazz burner. Aside from her choice of backup (Brown, McNab, bassist John Shifflett, drummer Jason Lewis, and Matt Clark on piano), Antonioli's strength is taking an old style or song lyric and finding new ways to tweak it. (Intrinsic)