Anyone who can get Jeff Beck playing rock & roll again — as Imelda May did when they toured together earlier this year — earns our respect right away. So does any artist who can get a major-label buzz by doing something as un-trendy as rockabilly. But if anyone can make rockabilly glamorous again, it’s May, whose visual style is pure bachelor-pad chic. And her sophomore album is pure charm, with a bit of retro-camp (like the Herb Alpert homage on “I’m Alive”) but a lot of raucous ’50s-style rock that sounds too heartfelt to write off as just a throwback. At times, she nearly overwhelms with energy (shades of k.d. lang when she was still fun), but when a song calls for deeper feeling, May delivers it — notably on “Too Sad to Cry,” which applies a New Orleans funeral feel to a breakup lyric. In fact, there’s evidence here that May will eventually tone down the rockabilly and go for a more sophisticated jazz-pop feel; right now, she’s got the best of both worlds.
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