Sign up for our free newsletter
Free D.C. news, delivered to your inbox daily.
Some artists should forgo recording self-titled LPs too early in their careers. With the release of N’Dea Davenport, yet another performer takes on the pressure of summarizing her entire personality in a single project. Davenport is a successful sessions singer, best known for spearheading the retro-funk revival of the early ’90s as frontwoman for the Brand New Heavies. Four albums of funk is deeper than your average pigeonhole, but Davenport has finally flown the coop in favor of eclecticism. On the album’s first two cuts, “Whatever You Want” and “Underneath a Red Moon,” the songstress sounds like her old self. Like the scratchy noise of old vinyl, her rich, soulful voice blends perfectly with that rare groove sound. The downside of getting to know her better is discovering her sometimes unpleasant idiosyncrasies: N’Dea sings the blues on “Save Your Love for Me”; N’Dea goes to Mardi Gras with New Orlean’s Rebirth Jazz Band on “Getaway”; N’Dea covers Neil Young on “Old Man.” With so many sides to Davenport’s musical personality, it’s hard to get comfortable with her. The diva’s calculated forays into house music, “No Never Again” and “Oh Mother Earth,” are a little too grim for dance tracks. In the techno-pop race, Davenport loses quite ungraciously to Madonna with “In Wonder,” the album’s most pathetic moment. She’s striving for credibility through variety, but N’Dea Davenport now seems a lot less like the girl next door and more like a neighbor lady with bizarre tics. Neil Drumming