"Wheel" by Laura Stevenson

April 23. 2013 | By Wayne Jessup

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Laura Stevenson
Wheel
[Don Giovanni]

On Laura Stevenson’s third LP, Wheel, the Long Island-based

singer/songwriter ups the ante, shedding her lo-fi past for a full-blown, widescreen production courtesy of Kevin McMahon, (Swans), and shows off her band The Cans in the best possible light. It’s her second album with New Jersey’s Don Giovanni Records.

“Renee” kicks off with bare acoustic guitar and voice, evolving into a Celtic-inflected lament, before the band comes in, lending gravitas to the track. “Triangle” presents an immediate left turn, a concise blast of dashboard pounding Americana guitar goodness. “Runner” continues the up-tempo mode, incorporating backup vocal gymnastics. No matter how cleverly

she and The Cans flit comfortably between genres, it’s the voice that’s front and center here, alternating dynamics as the occasion dictates, preserving the connection to the stories being told.

Stevenson examines the world with equal measures of fear and joy, and one doesn’t listen as much as submerge into the record. The best shots are saved for last, with the staggering “Telluride” giving way to the centerpiece, “L-DOPA,” shining with brass by Kelly Pratt, (Beirut), and strings by Rob Moose, (Bon Iver), before bringing it home with the title track.

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