Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Leyla McCalla: Breaking the Thermometer [Anti-, 2022]
In which the cellist turned Carolina Chocolate Drop sings and plays songs and other music from a theater piece about her parents' native Haiti whose full title is Breaking the Thermometer to Hide the Fever. Since the arrangements tend leisurely and the lyrics Creole, the manifold musical pleasures on this collection epitomize a chamber folk I'd figure wasn't verbal enough to suit a word guy like me. But McCalla has become such a striking singer that I found myself captivated from the first verse. Not that her chops are spectacular here--that would spoil the effect. Murmuring and lilting without missing or bending a note, she's lovely instead, all gentle precision and outgoing care. I wouldn't be surprised to learn that this impression goes against the songs' ideological grain. But that's how they sound. A-