Josh Groban dances on the line between formal crooner and pop singer, and he steps a little too far over both sides – which is probably the best way to keep all of his fans happy.
Groban is all about juxtapositions. The 31-year-old native of Los Angeles is a classical-ish singer with a baritone-ish voice, though he has a spontaneous, witty public persona and has starred in comedic roles in projects ranging from TV’s “The Office” to the film “Crazy, Stupid, Love.” So he’s not the stuffy guy typically associated with his singing style.
Like the vocalist, “All That Echoes” is about accessibility … to a point. First single/opening track “Brave” is uplifting, buttoned-up pop, and Groban only slightly polishes up his covers of Choir of Young Believers’ stark “Hollow Talk” and Glen Hansard/Marketa Irglova’s Oscar-winning “Falling Slowly” (from the movie “Once”).
Elsewhere, Groban picks up the pace with the breezy, Latin-leaning world music track “Below the Line” and even hints at country in the pop-rock ditty “Happy in My Heartache.”
Yet he generally comes across as at least a tad stilted in anything mainstream or casual – such is the burden for a precise, powerful voice – and he sounds much more at home in the lush, piano-driven cover of Jimmy Webb’s “The Moon’s a Harsh Mistress” and singing along with harp and uilleann pipes in his version of the old Irish gem “She Moved Through the Fair.”
And it goes without saying he’s a perfect fit grandstanding in a duet with Italian singer Laura Pausini on “E Ti Promettero.” Romance languages also suit him on another Italian song, the string-laden “Sincera,” as well as the gorgeous Spanish-language “Un Alma Mas” that features searing jazz trumpet by the legendary Arturo Sandoval.
Although Groban’s style can be too fussy, his passion is impressive and his skill is undeniable, both for his vocal delivery and for his business acumen in cultivating and serving a broad audience.
Plus his rousing cover of Stevie Wonder’s “I Believe (When I Fall in Love It Will Be Forever)” is an inspiring farewell.
Rating: 3.5 stars (out of five)
© 2013, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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