My Brightest Diamond: A Polished 'Workhorse'

Singer Shara Worden of the group My Brightest Diamond comes to pop music from a background in opera and performance art. She also serves as a back-up vocalist to the iconoclastic singer-songwriter Sufjan Stevens. The result, says critic Jim Fusilli, is alluring and adventurous, as in the new Bring Me the Workhorse.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

Singer Shara Worden of the group My Brightest Diamond comes to pop music from a background in opera and performance art. Such divergent influences can make a musical mess or create something alluring and adventurous.

Art critic Jim Fusilli says My Brightest Diamond's new CD Bring Me the Workhorse is very much the latter.

(Soundbite of album, “Bring Me the Workhorse”)

Ms. SHARA WORDEN (Singer, My Brightest Diamond): (Singing) She said come fly away.

JIM FUSILLI: It's one thing to conceive of a different approach to vocal rock and another to make it work. For Shara Worden, the focal point of the group My Brightest Diamond, execution is everything, beginning with a sturdy self-confidence derived from her belief in her voice, which is as come hither as a beautiful melody or a beguiling smile.

(Soundbite of album, “Bring Me the Workhorse”)

Ms. WORDEN: (Singing) Heaven and hell come crashing down and then the earth starts shaking. Yeah, it's so crazy. Heaven and hell come crashing, they come crashing, they come crashing, so beautiful and terrible. So beautiful and terrible.

FUSILLI: Worden's musical eclecticism began early. Her mother played church organ, and her father, who appears on Bring Me the Workhorse, is an award-winning accordion player. Shara Worden studied opera and moved to New York City, where she was drawn to a highly dramatic alternative music scene that blended rock with more than a touch of opera and cabaret theatricality. Worden soon had a new way to express her inner demon.

(Soundbite of album, “Bring Me the Workhorse”)

Ms. WORDEN: (Singing) One day I may visit, dear. Don't be too surprised because I got tired of noisy alarms and phone bills. And I don't think we're meant to stay here.

FUSILLI: Shara Worden shares with other American artists, such as Lou Reed or Sufian Stephens, an appreciation of imagery and melancholy. As befits someone schooled in opera, she's also drawn to melodrama.

(Soundbite of album, “Bring Me the Workhorse”)

Ms. WORDEN: (Singing) I used to be a (unintelligible) when I took up pretty things. We'd hook them by a thread, golden (unintelligible), pieces of glass, chandelier baubles and empty bottles of wine and watched the light shine through.

FUSILLI: What distinguishes Shara Worden and My Brightest Diamond is how well everything coalesces. What rises to the surface is the project's sense of risk, adventure, grandeur and confidence, elements in short supply in today's pop music but amply evident in this deeply satisfying recording.

SIEGEL: The CD is Bring Me the Workhorse by My Brightest Diamond. Our critic, Jim Fusilli, also writes for the Wall Street Journal.

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