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Melinda Doolittle Wields A Mighty Broom

Think of it as the revenge of Melinda Doolittle. The self-effacing former backup singer came in third on America Idol in 2007, behind Blake Lewis and winner Jordin Sparks, before disappearing from public view. Now, she returns to the limelight with her first album, Coming Back to You, in which the young soul singer proves that she belongs front and center, belting out songs old and new.

"Dust My Broom" was recorded by the legendary bluesman Robert Johnson back in 1936, and Doolittle tackles it with strength while avoiding histrionics. She knows her way around a bluesy run, she sings with a well-placed rasp and she rides herd over powerhouse horns, driving drums, funky keyboards and an army of backup singers. The only false notes come from the repeated chiming of what sounds like a gong.

Though a memorably straitlaced performer, Doolittle sounds more than a little bawdy singing, "I'm going to get up in the morning / I believe I'll dust my broom." But no less an authority than Big Joe Williams defines the phrase as, "I'm putting you down. I won't be back no more." As Doolittle dismisses a lover with a mix of pain and authority, it's not a stretch to theorize that she's putting her American Idol run behind her, too.

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Marc Silver
Marc Silver, who edits NPR's global health blog, has been a reporter and editor for the Baltimore Jewish Times, U.S. News & World Report and National Geographic. He is the author of Breast Cancer Husband: How to Help Your Wife (and Yourself) During Diagnosis, Treatment and Beyond and co-author, with his daughter, Maya Silver, of My Parent Has Cancer and It Really Sucks: Real-Life Advice From Real-Life Teens. The NPR story he co-wrote with Rebecca Davis and Viola Kosome -- 'No Sex For Fish' — won a Sigma Delta Chi award for online reporting from the Society of Professional Journalists.