Every week Now Hear This! gives away three copies of each album reviewed to lucky winners. To enter, send your name, mailing address and daytime phone number to fdkent@outandaboutnewspaper.com with NHT in the subject line. Winners will be drawn at random and notified via e-mail.

Annie Lennox – Songs of Mass Destruction
Sony BMG
Grade A-

Iconic as she is, the long awaited fourth album from Annie Lennox is of a disappointment as she seems to have opted to stay in familiar territory musically.

The album seems to lack some of the adventurous spirit found in previous offerings such as Diva and Medusa. That said, it’s not a bad album at all. Lennox ably tackles some big subject matter like only she can. One of the biggest standouts on the album is the HIV anthem Sing, which Lennox recorded with an incredibly ambitious line-up of 23 internationally renowned female recording artists including such luminaries as Madonna, KD Lang, Faith Hill, Fergie and many others.

Also of note is the mournful first single Dark Road and the vocally explosive Womankind that proves once and for all that a voice as big as Lennox’s cannot be easily contained.

While Songs of Mass Destruction may find Annie Lennox in familiar territory musically, it is still a sterling exemplary example of what a good pop album should be.

Angie Stone – The Art of Love and War
Stax Records
Grade: B+

When venerable R&B label Stax records was “reactivated” earlier this year, they made a wise choice in making “Nu-Classic Soul” leading lady Angie Stone their figurehead with her fourth studio album.

Stone’s vocal ability is unsurpassed in the modern R&B world and the album boasts an upbeat attitude that permeates each song. Recorded after undergoing surgery to drain fluid from around her heart, Stone’s presentation is one of grace and beaming beatific inspiration. The Art of Love and War is filled to the brim with funky beats and sweeping strings that reference Stax Records classic sound while remaining true to Stone’s modern outlook on music. Groovy and uplifting even at its lowest point (the acapella Go Back to Your Life) this is Angie Stone as she was meant to be heard.

Standout tracks include the first single Baby featuring a duet with the legendary Betty Wright and the inspiring My People which ends with Stone’s well-known wit declaring Bill Clinton “The first black man in the White House."

Reba McEntire – Reba: Duets
MCA Nashville
Grade B-

With her 25th studio album and her first since 2003’s Room to Breathe, Reba is finally back at the top of the country music heap.

While some might say that Reba is trying too hard by trying to ride the coat-tails of popular performers like Kelly Clarkson, Rascal Flats and Justin Timberlake by specifically releasing a duet album featuring these pop powerhouses, those who make those claims can be ignored for their idiocy. The fact is Reba is and always has been a powerhouse in Country music (despite her lackluster offerings during the run of her much lauded television show).

 Now that her focus is once more music, Reba is back at the top of her game delivering incredible versions of Because of You with Kelly Clarkson, She Can’t Save Him with Trisha Yearwood and Break Each Other’s Hearts Again with Don Henley. While there are a couple of duds on the album (Everyday People with Carole King) Reba is at her best when there is pain in her voice like the first track with LeAnn Rimes When You Love Someone Like That.

That’s the Reba I grew up with and that I still love to this day.

Photo courtesy of Red Bull

Red Bull Unlocked Nashville

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Photo courtesy of Rumble Boxing Gulch Nashville

Rumble Boxing Gulch, Nashville

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Post-Covid travel planning

Who would have thought that we would have to get through a pandemic in order to appreciate the small things we have, such as the ability to simply pack our bags and hit the road?

For two years, there’s been nothing left for us travel junkies to do but sit at home and try to find new destinations that we will conquer once we defeat what appears to be the biggest villain of the 21st century. But once that happens, hold your bags tight because we will be up for some of the most interesting travel experiences. Take a look at some ideas for your post-COVID traveling plans:

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