Donell Jones (Untouchables/Arista)

If much of recent R&B has seemed raunchy and blasé, some fine romancing has returned in this year's releases by such sensitive soul men as Musiq, Glenn Lewis and now Donell Jones. On his third album Jones, with his silky tenor and heartfelt declarations, comes off as a Babyface for the younger generation. Like Babyface, Jones, 29, is a multitalented artist who uses his skills as a singer, songwriter and producer to create sumptuous, sophisticated slow jams that are awfully easy on the ears. On tastefully rendered ballads such as "Where You Are (Is Where I Wanna Be) (Part 2)," he's not afraid to show his vulnerability, even if it means that he has to get down on his knees and beg forgiveness. Although this disc lacks a killer cut, it is a consistently gratifying effort that only stumbles when Jones attempts to be street-tough on the midtempo sex song "Freakin' U." His thug act is about as convincing as Richard Simmons stepping into an Ultimate Fighting ring.

Bottom Line: Good lovin'

Dave Matthews Band (RCA)
Album of the week

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Before recording Everyday, the triple-platinum CD that came out just 17 months ago, the Dave Matthews Band had scrapped an album of unfinished material. Nine tracks from that busted effort were revisited and revamped for this, the quintet's fifth studio disc. Following the marked departure of Everyday, which found DMB experimenting with a slicker, more pop-savvy sound, this is the Stuff that fans have come to expect: hearty, acoustic-based jam-rock laced with folk, R&B, jazz and world beat. Think the Grateful Dead meets Sting. While Everyday put the focus squarely on singer-guitarist Matthews, this disc once again showcases the musicianship of his band. Drummer Carter Beauford's shifting meters propel the intricately arranged "You Never Know," one of two songs written specifically for this project, while violinist Boyd Tinsley and sax-man Leroi Moore also take evocative turns. For his part Matthews delivers some of his most soulful singing to date, even adopting a creamy falsetto on the title tune that would do Smokey proud.

Bottom Line: Nothing broken here

SHeDAISY (Lyric Street)

They don't quite have the cachet of the Dixie Chicks, but this contemporary-country trio featuring sisters Kristyn, Kassidy and Kelsi Osborn is at least the equal of the Chicks musically. On SHeDAISY's first studio album since their 1999 debut, The Whole SHeBANG, these daughters of Magna, Utah, have polished their seamless harmonies to a high gleam and mastered the light country-rock that infuses their best songs.

Kassidy, who sings lead most of the time, has matured into an accomplished vocalist, developing a rhythmic and bluesy style reminiscent of Bonnie Raitt. Lyrically, however, SHeDAISY's songs still tend to the mundane ("How does it feel?/ You're so ideal," they sing on one tune), although the combative "Get Over Yourself" and the pensive "I Wish I Were the Rain" come as pleasant surprises. Producer Dann Huff and Kristyn, the songwriter in the family, might consider taking some cues from material that has well served other sister acts—the Forresters, the Boswells or even the Andrewses.

Bottom Line: Blossoming, but not yet in full bloom

  • Contributors:
  • Chuck Arnold,
  • Ralph Novak.