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Holcombe Waller: The Pieces Of A Life

Like Rufus Wainwright and Antony before him, Holcombe Waller has a gorgeously androgynous voice, both as a singer and songwriter --­ one that cuts through ordinary and extraordinary situations with delicacy and emotional precision.

Waller's new album, Into the Dark Unknown, is a come-to-Jesus moment come to life,­ a clear-eyed look at confusion that's as arresting as it is intimate. The album leaves Waller's voice front and center, and the result is strong, theatrical and wonderfully nuanced, all at the same time.

"Risk of Change" is a ballad for anyone who's ever faced down a life-altering decision. Waller's voice ­and words ­are tender and bold, his voice clear and strong and a little broken. There's fear, regret and a rush involved in rearranging the pieces of a life, and when the song swells to its apex ­-- "I'm on my way" --­ it's clear that freedom, as exhilarating as it is, always comes with a price.

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Barbara Mitchell