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Sinéad O'Connor

Throw Down Your Arms (Sanctuary Records)

Keeping up with Sinéad O'Connor's existential contortions is a bit like chasing dandelion fuzz in a hurricane. Artistically, this latest proclamation of Rastafarianism at least does her a good musical turn, even if it contributes to her reputation as someone who picks religions by plucking "God loves me/God loves me not" petals off a daisy. With everyone from Willie Nelson to My Morning Jacket pillaging reggae for creative inspiration, O'Connor's cover-compilation contribution ranks as one of the more pristine and beautiful excursions in musical tourism. The political stridency, heavy-handed moralism, repetitious uplift and bare-bones simplicity all provide an almost perfect intersection for her personality and the haunting wound of her voice. On Peter Tosh's "Downpressor Man," she infuses this judgment-day poetry with church-choir purity and a deep well of bruising anger belied by her surface delicacy. She's never sounded more subtly in control of her pipes, rarely pulling any stunt wails, instead loading her interpretations with fierce density and quiet fire. Jah, man.

 
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