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If Alana Davis's first album, her 1997 debut Blame It On Me, established her as a new singer/songwriter to be reckoned with (Time Magazine picked it as one of the year's five best), her new album, Fortune Cookies marks the triumphant return of one of the most illuminating voices in pop. The new album is an acoustically driven, funked-up masterpiece, with Davis's signature vocal ache enlivening each song. It comes at a time when Alana, herself, may be crowned as music's most alluring female songsmith. She laughs off such a notion, preferring instead, to use the title of her second album for cover. "A lot of these songs are so heavy. I liked the idea of fortune cookies because they have the ability to grant you something that could make you think or enlighten you in some way. Or they can just make you laugh. Believe me, I've saved a few over the years and tucked them away in my wallet."Whether it's the breathless shuffle of "I Want You," or the dreamy effortlessness of "When You Became King," Davis's ability to weave indelible lyrics around evocative, shimmering guitar licks comes shining through. "Anybody who plays simple rhythm guitar is a friend of mine," she laughs. "Richie Havens, Bill Withers – you name them." The latter song, she recalls, was influenced by the previous generation's female singing/songwriting hero. "It's a particular fingerpicking pattern that I learned to copy from Joni Mitchell's records when I learned to play back in college. It's so fun to do. I wrote it without ever really intending that it become a song. I was sort of exercising and playing. It had a nice feel to it. " -2-That kind of honest immediacy penetrates every groove of Fortune Cookies. "Some of the lyrics I even wrote in the studio. I wanted the album to sound fresh. What you're getting is me, right now. I'm pretty happy with that." Collaborator and friend Ed Tuton (he helmed Blame It On Me) produced most of the tracks on the new disc. The easy give and take of their relationship created the kind of environment where Alana could trust her deepest instincts. "It's very natural working with him. He helped keep the songs pure. He has a wonderful way of helping me get to just what I'm thinking and feeling. That's important when you're working with songs that are very personal. You want them to wear on you like an old coat or something." Alana also enlisted sought after producers The Neptunes toproduce a track with her, the funky "Bye Bye (AKA My Life)". "I realized a lot of songs that I was liking on the radio were songs that they had a hand in. Originally, they were going to do a remix but they have a way of sounding so different, when they came in I said 'let's try something new.'" Perhaps the biggest surprise on the new album is Alana's loving re-working of the 1984 hip hop gem "Friends," by Whodini. "People always sample and cover stuff in the hip hop world. I wanted to flip the script. I used to love that song when I was a kid. I remember watching them shoot a video on a pier where I grew up off of Washington Street."Born and raised in New York City's Greenwich Village, her distinctly personal style became her calling card right from the start. She was able to make Ani Di Franco's song "32 flavors" her own on the first album by imbuing it with an equally confident phrasing. Acclaimed live jaunts with artists like Ben Harper, Blues Traveler, Ziggy Marley, and a stint on the Lilith Fair tour proved that her understated mystique could also transfer beautifully to the stage.Still, she takes the impending release of only her second album in stride. "I try not to take myself too seriously. I'd like to think that these songs are my little fortune cookies for everybody."