If you go
What: k.d. lang and the Siss Boom Bang band, in concert.
When: 7 p.m. Aug. 12.
Where: Oregon Zoo, 4001 S.W. Canyon Road, Portland.
Cost: $42.55 through Ticketmaster, 800-745-3000 or ticketmaster.com.
Information: Call 503-226-1561 or visit http://oregonzoo....>
When k.d. lang calls “Sing It Loud,” her best album, she’s got good reason.
“Because I’m 50 now, I think I have some perspective and some honesty with myself,” said lang, who does not use capital letters in her name. “The fact that we managed to create an album that is fun, soulful and honest, that’s a pretty hard thing to achieve in a cohesive sense without being overly contrived. (“Sing It Loud”) feels natural to me. It seems soulful. It seems fun. Those are not easy things to do, especially after 28 years in the business.”
Lang achieved that honesty, soulfulness and instinctive creation with a lot of new collaborators, including her new backup musicians, The Siss Boom Bang band.
She was ready to change things up after her last album, “Watershed.”
While on tour behind “Watershed,” lang connected with Joe Pisapia, who produces the band Guster. They later got together to write, and the chemistry was immediate.
“There’s a freedom to Joe,” lang said, “I think Joe is one of those kinds of guys that either makes you feel uncomfortable, because you can’t access your inner child yourself, or you have an immediate bond, because you can.
“It was like there was nothing but freedom, like you couldn’t do anything wrong, no judgment,” she said. “It was just two kids in an infinite sandbox just playing around.”
When they scheduled an initial recording session for the album, lang invited two musicians from her previous band, Josh Grange (guitar) and Daniel Clark (keys/multi-instrumentalist).
Then Pisapia brought in bassist Lex Price. Clark recommended drummer Fred Eltringham of the Wallflowers to round out the group, which became The Siss Boom Bang band.
“The second everyone walked into the studio, I just knew. I just knew, I knew, I knew,” lang said. “I could feel it. It felt magical. There was mutual respect. There was energy. There was positivity. It was just so exciting and so amazingly perfect.
The music they created on “Sing It Loud” has familiar elements, but it also feels like a start of a new musical phase for lang — and indeed, it’s her best, most seamless work.
“I Confess,” for instance, starts quietly, echoing the torch-song style of her 1992 album, “Ingenue.” But then the Siss Boom Bang band kicks in, creating a dramatic musical backdrop that falls somewhere between rock and orchestral country. Throughout the rest of “Sing It Loud,” lang continues to mix and assimilate musical elements. “The Water’s Edge” offers a richly layered, gentle yet insistent sound. “Perfect World” skirts the boundaries of atmospheric pop and country. And “Sugar Buzz” sounds a bit like a twangy take on the Beatles, as lang reaches several goose bump-inducing crescendos.
She likes that “Sing It Loud” defies easy categorization.
“There’s not really a genre to this record,” lang said. “It’s kind of more soulful, more playful. I would say this is pretty close to my actual personality.”
Throughout her career, lang has found spaces in between genres.
She emerged in the early 1980s from the small Canadian town of Consort, Alberta, with a feisty brand of country on the albums “A Truly Western Experience” (1984) and “Angel With A Lariat” (1987). She didn’t stay tied to that style for long, though, moving into more of a pop/torch song territory on “Ingenue” (when her career hit a commercial peak with the hit song “Constant Craving”) and 1995’s “All You Can Eat.” Later, she evolved toward a classic crooning vocal style when she paired up with Tony Bennett for the 2003 album “A Wonderful World.”
While “Watershed” was also wide-ranging stylistically, lang said that “Sing It Loud” feels like something different from her past work.
“I do think it’s a new chapter, and I think it’s something I’ve been trying to get to for awhile,” she said.
Considering how strongly lang feels about “Sing It Loud,” it’s no surprise that her current live show is weighted toward her new material. She has the entire Siss Boom Bang band with her for the tour.
“We’re going to concentrate on ‘Sing It Loud,’ for sure, the new stuff,” lang said. “That’s always a struggle when you have a career of 28 years and not many hits. You’re, like, wondering what you should play. But I’m going to concentrate on the new stuff. Obviously, it’s going to be peppered with catalog stuff.”