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Surfacing, Sarah McLachlan

*** [three stars, not bad]

Halfway through her long-awaited fourth album, _Surfacing_, on an existential ballad called "Witness," Sarah McLachlan wonders, "Will we burn in heaven, like we do down here?"

It's a question blues and gospel singers have pondered for ages but one that might seem too early for a Canadian singer-songwriter known for lush production and otherwordly lyrics. Still, she gamely tries to testify: voice countless times, holds world-weary grief, while her solo singing is peppered with rueful moans that are only occasionally awkward.

"Witness" and the track that follows it, a country ballad called "Angel" are the most adventurous moments on _Surfacing_- the only times, in fact, when Ms. McLachlan steps away from her familiar meditative aura. Though both songs show that this vocalist has a wider emotional range than was evident previously [umm...did you hear the last album?] Ms. McLachlan, the catalyst behind this summer's all-female Lillith Fair festival knows better than to stray far.

She first gained an audience with stately, inwardturning songs full of veiled emotion, and her most memorable new music, notably the single "Building a Mystery" and the grand "Adia" suggests that the subtle stuff is still what she does best."


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