R&B singer-songwriter Amel Larrieux mixes it up on her 2007 release LOVELY STANDARDS. As the title suggests, this is a set of standards that are, in fact, incredibly lovely. Larrieux's hushed, breathy voice gives the performances a thrilling intimacy, an approach perfectly suited to the spare, tasteful, small-combo arrangements. The selections, which include songs by Duke Ellington, Rodgers and Hammerstein, and other heavyweight tunes smiths, shine like brilliant gems. The overall effect is an elegant and beautiful album that sounds--save its pristine, contemporary production--like it might have been released in the era of Billie Holiday or Sarah Vaughan.