k.d. lang

Talented songwriter k.d. lang has clearly learned a few things from spending so much time around Tony Bennett. The two have been recording together since they released 2002's A Wonderful World, and on her latest disc, you can hear the influence of Bennett in her approach to singing. The Alberta, Canada, native has always been slightly controversial to conservatives in the United States, and there's a laundry list of reasons why — none of which has to do with her music. From the lowercased spelling of her name to her butchy appearance and openly gay appeal, haters tend to look on the surface and write lang off as a musical dissident. The truth is, she's a purist, and actually listening to her music proves that. She grew up on the Canadian prairies, and it's no surprise that her earlier music had a definitive country twang. Although that's the sound that made her famous and helped her win the first of her astonishing eight Juno Awards, her music these days refuses to stick to one genre, rather showcasing the strength of her chops. Throughout her newest disc, Watershed, released last month, she uses sparse instrumentation, and she sings by taking advantage of the softer side of her voice. There are Brazilian influences, country, jazz, and straight ballads — something she's gotten increasingly good at over the years. Her new disc is both enjoyable and puzzling, leaving fans wondering how all of this will sound in a live setting. The answer is headed to town right now, and if you enjoy watching a master of her craft at work, then catch k.d. lang this weekend. Just leave your prejudices at home.

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