For fans of the underrated ’90s pop-rock band Semisonic — best known for the hit “Closing Time,” but responsible for many great songs — it’s been a pleasure to watch the frontman for the Minneapolis trio experience Grammy-winning success as a co-writer of hits for Adele (“Someone Like You”) and the Dixie Chicks (“Not Ready to Make Nice”). Even better is Wilson’s return as a performing singer-songwriter on his second solo album, “Love Without Fear.” Wilson enlists many of his friends — including Dixie Chick Natalie Maines, pop chanteuse Sara Bareilles, and Nickel Creek’s Sean Watkins — to complement his own warm, elastic tenor on songs of longing, loneliness, hope, and inspiration. Maines adds her flinty harmonies to the tender title track and the dreamy waltz “Too Much.” Bareilles adds a feathery vocal touch to “Disappearing,” which features Wilson’s old Semisonic bandmate John Munson on upright bass. Watkins and drummer Aaron Redfield add propulsive energy to the aching “A Song Can Be About Anything” and bring gravity to the bruised “When It Pleases You.” (Out now)
ESSENTIAL “A Song Can Be About Anything”Sarah Rodman can be reached at email@example.com.