Since her days with Northwest acts Goodness, Hammerbox, and short-lived project the Rockfords, Seattle diva Carrie Akre has built a loyal following with her shrewdly powerful vocals and tough-but-eloquent songwriting. Her solo debut, the two-year-old Home, saw Akre step away from embracing the alt-rock side of her former endeavors to pursue a more jazz-like avenue. On her sophomore effort, Invitation, Akre once again changes gears without grinding them a bit. The bouncy, R&B-laced "Play" and "Only There Tonight" stand as sharp opposites to the smoky-bar ambiance of tracks like "Invitation," where Akre's resonating pipes hover over sentimental ivories, and "House at the End of the World" (co-written with Smithereen Pat Dinizio), where bits of '70s guitar twangs reverberate and the backbeat throbs as Akre examines the frustrations of secluding oneself (³How will you ever meet the one who could bring back the sun?/You live inside yourself, and this house is the only one²). "Mystery" crosses into disco territory -- a move that could have proven disastrous, but Akre manages to make polyester fashionable on this track, where brassy trumpets and a jazzy, uptempo backbone meld perfectly with the dancy feel. Slowing the pace, the title track's slow groove simmers in a blues setting, while spacey quirks hover over the dark pop of "Heaven." An album paid for in its entirety by fans who believed enough in Akre to shell out money before hearing the results, Invitation turns out to be a good investment and a better listen.
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