“They say the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away/Well it was definitely gone when I woke up today,” sings the newly-single Melissa Etheridge on her seventh album Skin. The song, “It’s Only Me,” is one of several stand-out tracks on the disc, alternating between spoken-word and the singer’s signature emotive rasp. Skin is a short trip (clocking in at 38 minutes) yet it takes us on a vivid journey from abandonment and desperation (the rocking “Lover Please”) through rebirth and renewed hope (“Heal Me,” which features Laura Dern and Meg Ryan on backing vocals). The track “Please Forgive Me” sweetly reintroduces Etheridge to the familiar desire of romance: “It’s an old fire…But my skin is painfully new.” “The Different” is uplifting and dramatic, featuring a distant yet inspired vocal (“Mama’s rollin’ in the backyard/Filled with love and light”) while the lovely and concise “Walking on Water” features simple metaphors with an uncomplicated arrangement of fluid guitars, synthetic flute sounds and drum loops. Drum samples, in fact, are used amicably on almost every track (the album’s liner notes devote a whole section to loop credits). As usual, Etheridge’s lyrics surface as a weakness (“I know before you try and run/You gotta learn to crawl”), but tracks like “Goodnight” and “I Want to Be in Love” are radio-ready and showcase the singer’s slick production skills.
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