Dress Rehearsal

Funny how a little love can get you so high, sings Carolyn Dawn Johnson on "He's Mine" - and she does indeed sound like she's floating a few feet off the ground. The woman fans and friends simply call "CDJ" got married just over a year ago, and this longdelayed, highly anticipated follow-up to her 2001 debut, Room With a View, is dizzy with the tingly sugar rush of romance.

Carolyn Dawn can get away with something as shamelessly gushing as "He's Mine" (or "Head Over High Heels" or "My Little Secret" or "Life as We Know It") for a couple of reasons. There's the natural charm in her voice, which makes you want to forgive her anything. But more important is the meticulous sense of craft in her songs, which infuses each mushy outburst with a reminder of her buzzing musical intelligence.

Of course, Dress Rehearsal offers more than mash notes to CDJ's husband. The title cut offers a seize-the-day philosophy of life, "Squeezin' the Love Outta You" is an irresistible kiss-off stomper, and both "Die of a Broken Heart" and the moving "I'll Let You Go" find her looking up from her audible joy to see the specter of mortality in the distance. It's in those moments - when somber reality intrudes on all that highon- love intoxication - that Carolyn Dawn finds her deepest, most resonant moments.

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