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Uplifting tunes with a lighter message

(JB Mondino)
By Siddhartha Mitter
Globe Correspondent / September 5, 2011

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Raised in Nigeria and based in Paris, Asa exemplifies the new wave of global singer-songwriters who express feelings and experiences from their fluid lives - marked by migration, expatriation, or dual cultural identities - through the time-honored tools of earnest lyrics and a guitar.

Asa’s self-titled 2008 debut was a tantalizing introduction: Her slightly husky voice possessed a kind of instant bohemian appeal, and the songs, many drifting toward a reggae tempo and feel, felt animated by a quiet but smoldering political consciousness.

“Beautiful Imperfection’’ is tighter on production and lighter on message. While Asa sings, “There’s people dying everywhere’’ (on the first track, “Why Can’t We’’) or “What’s the truth behind why people go to war’’ (on the closer, “Questions’’), she doesn’t care to take the analysis further. “Beautiful Imperfection’’ is an album of uplifting tunes that reach toward a lover (“Be My Man’’), the divine (“Preacher Man’’), but mostly inward in the neo-soulish, I-just-gotta-be-me tradition of a Jill Scott or Macy Gray.

On three songs in Yoruba that break up this fare - they are transcribed but not translated in the booklet - Asa’s voice delivers that language’s round syllables and subtle tones with textured beauty.

Her French band is sharp; there are lovely touches throughout, like the trombone on “Be My Man’’ or slide guitar on “OK OK.’’ It adds up to a record that’s full of charm, but you wonder about its sticking power. Asa still feels like a tremendous talent who could stand to take more risks. (Out tomorrow)