Phil Madeira, “Open Heart” (Mercyland Records)
The final song on Phil Madeira’s new album is “Monk,” as in Thelonious, and it’s a savory celebration of soul-stirring music rooted in the blues — the sort of sounds that make up “Open Heart.”
On his third fine album in less than two years, the prolific Madeira digs deep with material inspired by a romantic rebound after the death of his longtime girlfriend from cancer. Madeira mixes sweet melancholy with dry wit as he finds the power in healing.
But it takes time for aches to mend, and Madeira wisely chooses an unusually slow tempo for an album opener on “Requiem For a Dream.” The set's centerpiece comes two songs later with “A Rock On Your Shore,” a gospel-flavored pledge of devotion.
The uncluttered arrangements include occasional horns, strings and spot-on piano solos by Madeira. Ballads predominate, but the whole thing swings as the versatile Madeira — an ace sideman as well as a fine songwriter — flexes all of his musical muscles, from country to jazz. “Monk,” which references Nina Simone and Carter Stanley, sounds like nine chords and the truth.
In the end, it’s all bound to the blues, designed to help make hurt go away.