Joan Armatrading’s previous album, Into the Blues, just didn’t feel right. Her reverence for the genre aside, it was a sluggish, tossed-off affair. This Charming Life is more like it: vintage Armatrading at her most enthusiastic and self-assured, reveling in the act of making music. And it’s nearly all her — she wrote, played, sang, and produced every sound on the disc save for the drums.
This Charming Life is possibly her most electric album in her nearly 40-year career, a rocker stocked with screaming guitars, weighty rhythms, and unabashedly powered-up vocal performances. With almost every song written in the first person, it’s also some of Armatrading’s most intimate music.
In the bashing “Heading Back to New York City,” the singer vows to return to the Big Apple “to do the things I never did” (among them, for whatever reason, to “see Staten Island”). And the naive, if appropriately charming, opening title track finds her demanding, “Every government must pass a law that says the sun has to always shine.” It’s an uplifting set of joyous proclamations (“I’ll ride the seven seas for you,” “I want you to always be by my side”) balanced by the occasional declaration of pain (“Cry,” “Two Tears”) — Armatrading back in the game.