Excerpted from the magazine for Billboard.com.

When Denon issues Joan Armatrading's "Lover's Speak" March 25, it will mark the first release by the acclaimed singer/songwriter in eight years. But Armatrading has hardly been idle during that time: She worked on charitable projects, earned a degree, received a Member of the Order of the British Empire, and wrote and performed a song for Nelson Mandela.

"It was time," Armatrading says of "Lover's Speak," her 18th album and first for Denon. Rejuvenated by the time she had away from recording, she found inspiration in touring with a smaller road band. "I rearranged the songs for three of us," she says. "Touring like that made me think about how to do the next record. I'd always wanted to do an album where I played everything."

Leaving only the drumming and horn parts to others, Armatrading served as the set's producer, opting for simplicity. "All I wanted to do was make a good record," she says. "I made a statement, and there was no need to embellish it."

The title track's gentle, buoyant melody and slight reggae lilt reflects Armatrading's laid-back approach. "I've always been fascinated by people in love," Armatrading says. "It is like a language as only they know it."

"We're just thrilled to be working with her," Savoy Label Group president Steve Vining says, expressing the view -- bolstered by Norah Jones' recent successes -- that there is a definite market for heartfelt music. "It's not fussy, and it's not trendy. ['Lover's Speak' has] a real organic, pure approach."

Armatrading will begin a U.S. tour in June that will concentrate on theater-sized venues in major markets.





Excerpted from the March 22, 2003, issue of Billboard. The full original text of the article is available in the Billboard.com Premium Services section.

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