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Heartbreak and empowerment on Sarah McLachlan's latest, 'Shine On'

Published July 1, 2014 9:14 am

Review • Life experience enriches the singer's new album, "Shine On."
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Life has been far from smooth for Sarah McLachlan of late.

In the span of a few years, the Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter split from her husband of 11 years, lost her father and cut ties with her longtime manager and label.

Those heartbreaking moments come through in her newest album, "Shine On," released May 6. The sweet lament for her dad, called simply "Song for My Father," is filled with the grief of losing a parent. The songs "Surrender to Certainty" and "Broken Heart" also address some of the hardships she has faced.

But the album is filled overwhelmingly with optimism and empowerment. Her radio single "In Your Shoes" is an upbeat feminist anthem, including the words "Time for you to walk out, walk in your own shoes. Lay down your footprints wherever you choose. Leave it all behind and move on; you are your own woman."

The song has become an homage to Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani teen who survived an assassination attempt. It's nice to hear that McLachlan's advocacy for women in power hasn't faded, despite the flat-out tanking of her Lilith Fair revival in 2010. She plays a sold-out show at Red Butte Garden on Tuesday.

"Shine On" even adds just a bit of a rock edge, thanks to the aptly named Bob Rock, who has produced for Metallica and Mötley Crüe, producing two of her tracks: "Flesh and Blood" and "Love Beside Me." While they never get metal-edged, there is some great guitar work and a climactic choir.

McLachlan seems to have worked things out with her ex-husband, Ashwin Sood, who also was her drummer. The former couple have two daughters, one 12 and one just about 7. He plays on a few tracks on "Shine On."

And her love life has reignited with her current boyfriend, NHL star Geofff Courtnall, maybe the inspiration for tracks such as "The Sound That Love Makes."

It seems her split from longtime manager Terry McBride and his Nettwerk label hasn't made McLachlan forget her roots. The song "Beautiful Girl" has the simple appeal of a woman at her piano, as did the song "Adia" from arguably her best album, 1997's "Surfacing."

McLachlan's vocal range has always been impressive, but "Shine On" shows that her emotional range is even more so. —

Sarah McLachlan

When • Tuesday, July 1, 7:30 p.m.

Where • Red Butte Garden, 300 Wakara Way, Salt Lake City

Tickets • Sold out