Release Date:
May 8, 2008

Reviewed by:
Elizabeth Ware

I live in a mid-sized city where there are too many lights to go out and fully appreciate the stars in the sky, but every once in awhile, I venture out away from all the noise and lights and get a chance to gaze into the night sky.  It's amazing how much light there is shining back down on us in what seemed like a pitch-black sky.

Mindi Abair's new CD, Stars, is all about that – a lot of light in a seemingly dark sky.  And if you can take a little time to get away from all the noise and distractions of our time in history - with all of the wars, faltering economies, food shortages, environmental concerns, and any number of other serious issues – you can still find hope and reasons to be optimistic.  That's the predominant message on this album.
Musically, Stars is a step further in Abair's journey to find her own place and make her own statement.  There are eleven original tracks, six instrumental and five vocal, alternating through the entire CD.  Her vocal tracks are definitely "ready for prime-time" and rival anything you'll hear from other singer/songwriters like John Mayer, Norah Jones, and Corinne Bailey Rae.  In fact, the debut single from this CD is a vocal track.

Now, you won't hear me say this often, because I'm an instrumental music enthusiast, but on Stars, I found myself being drawn in more on the vocal tracks than on the instrumentals.  "On and On" is an infectious, cross-genre, Elton John inspired track that reminisces about Abair's youth.  "Stars" rivals anything you'll hear on Adult Contemporary radio.  "I Wonder" looks at what might happen if we all treated each other with love and respect.  "Change" is a great folk/pop track with a cool R7B flavored chorus that say the one thing that doesn't change is that we all change!  The last vocal, "Here for You," is an old-school soul ballad in the tradition of "I'll Be There" and "Stand By Me," with a nice contemporary touch about Abair's long-time friendship with collaborator/producer Matthew Hager.

All of that said, the instrument tracks are not to be ignored.  "Smile" and "Out of the Blue" are both signature Abair instrumentals – melody-driven pop/rock.  "F.L.A. Swing" is a bluesy, funky instrumental featuring a wailing tenor sax with a great guitar backbone.  "Gingerbread Man" is an interesting blend of blues, R&B, and pop.  Then there is the cool, bass-drive "Mojo."  And closing the album out is "Gonna Be Alright," a pop/rock instrumental with a great hook, and great groove… very nice.

“Audiences today are more open than ever to artists who play instruments, write their own songs and have something meaningful to say,” Abair says.  “While I was writing the songs for Stars, I felt very optimistic, expressing a lot of joy and hope. We need that spirit to take hold of us today, and I am excited about expressing these ideas through songs that are meaningful to me and reflective of my journey and the many roads I’ve taken.  I’m going for broke, making the record I’ve always wanted to make with songs that honestly portray my innermost feelings about my own life and the world around me.”

The backup band:  keyboardist Ricky Peterson (John Mayer, Prince), drummer Abe Laboriel, Jr. (Paul McCartney, Sting) and cellist Richard Dodd, (Faith Hill, Foo Fighters).