Jeff Ousborne
April 18, 2003 AT 04:00 AM EDT

On her 18th album, Armatrading explores the interstices of reticence and confession, commitment and independence. In the past, she’s smashed genres with all the brio of Joni Mitchell. Here, she sticks to lush, strummy folk rock: ”Let’s Talk About Us” is pure bliss, while ”In These Times” is a gorgeous Anglican hymn. Unfortunately, the self-produced project has a claustrophobic, demo-tape quality. Still, it can’t dim her spirit: ”I want to learn the language of love,” she begs on the title track. Rest assured, she’s already fluent.

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