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Showing posts with label Melinda Doolittle. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Melinda Doolittle. Show all posts

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Review: Kristina Train - Spilt Milk

Kristina Train - Spilt Milk
2009, Blue Note Records

Kristina Train was destined to wind up where she is. Yesterday, Blue Note Records released Train’s debut album, Spilt Milk. Blue Note has pursued Train for several years, but at her mother’s assistance she went to college before pursuing her dream. In the process, Kristina Train learned more about the world, but she also learned more about herself. More confident and self-assured than she was at nineteen years of age, Train approached Spilt Milk with a clear idea of what she wanted to accomplish. Recorded and produced by Jimmy Hogarth (Corinne Bailey Rae, Duffy, James Blunt, Spilt Milk makes Train’s influences abundantly clear without sounding like anyone other than Kristina Train. Shades of Aretha Franklin, Raelette Mable and Karen Dalton can be heard, but the voice that emerges can be no one than the Savannah Georgia native with the wonderfully textured voice.

Train opens with the title track, sounding like a sultrier, worldlier version of Norah Jones. Train mixes the modern silk of Jones with the classic Rhythm N Blues sound of artists like Aretha Franklin and Tina Turner and newcomer Melinda Doolittle. Spilt Milk plays like a classic tune with a theatrical feel to it. No Man's Land keeps that classic R&B/Soul feel in a diva-like performance from Train. The melody is one that will get stuck in your brain, and you'll find yourself swaying along. Don't Remember and Don't Beg For Love have similar styles, leading into the Turner-esque It's Over Now, a song steeped in the history of R&B but which could very well chart today.
Train has a true Diva moment on You're Still Going To Lose, showing the presence and dramatic sense to command attention with the right material. This is the biggest highlight of the album. Moon Rivers And Such is more in the Norah Jones realm, but the gentle rasp and power in Train's voice set her apart. Train is able to capture a classic sound while coming across young and hip here and throughout the disc, an unusual quality that should do well for her. Call In The Maker is one of the more intriguing songs on the disc; mixing elements of Gospel, Soul and The Blues in a dynamic performance that sounds like it might have come right out of Muscle Shoals. Half Light is all about regrets that stem from entering (or re-entering) a relationship you shouldn't be involved in. The writing here is nuanced, but Train is chomping at the bit here to break out and the song never quite allows that opportunity. Train closes out with Far From The Country, a classic love song with a Motown feel to it.

Kristina Train has an amazing voice, and she gets to display it amply on Spilt Milk. The down-tempo nature of the album might restrict here a tad here and there; the moments when she's allowed to truly soar are tempered by slower material that's not conducive to the big impressive belt she's capable of, although they do happen. Along with folks like KT Tunstall, Melinda Doolittle and Joss Stone, Kristina Train looks to bring some old school magic to modern music. Look for Spilt Milk to garner Train a lot of critical praise and expect her to be around for a good long while.

Rating: 3.5 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about Kristina Train at or You can purchase Spilt Milk as either a CD or download from You can also download Spilt Milk through iTunes.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Review: Jesse Dee - Bittersweet Batch

Jesse Dee – Bittersweet Batch
2008, 7not Records

Boston native and Burlington, Vermont resident Jesse Dee has a love for classic soul music that shines through everything he sings. Notably an artist and graphic designer, Jesse Dee made the decision to make a career of music. He’s already open for R&B Legend Al Green, and credits influences such as Otis Redding, Sam Cooke, Etta James and the old Chess vocal groups as influences. Jesse Dee is a former member of college favorites Decifunk, and also has done time with The Dirty Whites and Sea Monsters. Jesse Dee’s solo debut album, Bittersweet Batch, hit shelves in September of 2008. If it’s any indication you’ll be hearing a great deal more of Dee in the future.

Jesse Dee is the real deal. You won’t hear the sort of aural airbrushing on Bittersweet Batch that is some common these days. Dee’s voice is highly emotive and textured, with the sort of vocal flaws that made the classic R&B and Soul singers so distinctive and interesting to listen to. The album opens with Alright. Dee’s rough-velvet voice is right up there with Melinda Doolittle for bringing classic soul back into the spotlight. Slow Down is one of my favorites in the album, with a highly positive message and a great arrangement. This song will stay with you. Over & Over Again sounds like classic Motown, complete with Stax horns. Dee brings the funk on Reap What You Sow, a must-listen song. My Two Feet brings in the sounds of New Orleans on a great classic pop song. Dee revisits New Orleans on New Blades Of Grass; a song about Hurricane Katrina and about the will of New Orleans residents to rebuild and survive that tragedy. Be sure to check out Alive & Kickin’ as well; the biggest soul/rock/gospel/roadhouse sound on the album.

Jesse Dee kicks it old school on what may be the most traditional Soul/R&B release of the year for 2008. If you are a fan of these genres then Bittersweet Batch is a must-have disc.

Rating: 4 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about Jesse Dee at, where you can purchase a digital download of Bittersweet Batch.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Review: Jana Mashonee - New Moon Born

Jana Mashonee – New Moon Born
2009, Miss Molly Records

Jana Mashonee is a voice to be reckoned with. Her soulful, stannic alto is full of vibrato and swirling hues that capture the listener’s attention. She’s a performer for whom you’d gladly buy a concert ticket even if she was singing the phonebook. An award winning (7 Nammy Awards, 1 Grammy nomination) Native American (Lumbee Indian) singer, Mashonee aims for greater popular exposure with her latest CD, New Moon Born. With a mix of Soul, R&B, Latin, Native American and pop styles, Mashonee appears to have found a winning musical combination.

New Moon Born opens with OsirisStar and an incredible vocal line from Mashonee. The lyrical depth is more than you might expect from your typical, pop-oriented album; but nothing else here indicates that Mashonee is typical. There are some samples of fairly typical pop fare such as Solid Ground, Used To Be In Love and Water’s Edge. At the same time there are some real stunners on New Moon Born. For Just One Night is a gorgeous, affecting performance featuring some delicious minor key vocal harmonies. The Spanish version, Una Noche is even more powerful. Miracles spices things up with a funk-filled bass line and a dance beat guaranteed to get your feet moving. Sunday Morning shows Mashonee working in her upper register and sounding remarkably like Paula Cole.

So far, so good, but Carousel is the song you came to hear. Jana Mashonee shows signs of a big, powerful voice all throughout New Moon Born, and on Carousel she lets it run with vigor. Carousel is classic Soul/R&B ala Aretha Franklin (or more recently, Melinda Doolittle). Mashonee can belt with the best of them and delivers an absolutely stunning performance here. If she can do on stage what she does on CD then she has the potential to be a legend.

Jana Mashonee is already an icon. She is a sterling musical representative of The First Nations of the Americas, melding Native American and Latin sounds with traditional pop music in a fashion that has few forebears. Her powerful, hue-filled voice is instantly memorable and recognizable; resounding in the listener’s mind like a lucid dream. Mashonee delivers the songs on New Moon Born with a passion that burns right out of your speakers, and she’s impossible to overlook. New Moon Born has the potential to be a breakout recording.

Rating: 4 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about Jana Mashonee at or New Moon Born will be released on January 20, 2009. You can order copies or digital downloads through

Friday, December 26, 2008

Review: Melinda Doolittle - Coming Back To You

Melinda Doolittle - Coming Back To You

2009, Genius Products (TVN)

We last saw Melinda Doolittle in Season six of American Idol, bounced from the show by fans who value youth and gimmicks to talent and an ability to perform. Rather than run right to market to capitalize on her exposure with a collection of pre-packaged hits that wouldn't do her justice as an artist, Doolittle has chosen to take her time and put together a recording that befits her talent. The result, coming on February 3, 2009, is Coming Back To You. Most American Idol alumni have managed to disappoint, leaving behind the sounds they developed on the show for slick, pop-oriented sounds that are more production value than talent. Doolittle has stayed true to herself, delivering 13 songs steeped in classic R&B and Soul.

Opening with Fundamental Things, Melinda Doolittle sends the message that she is invested in old school sounds. Doolittle shines in a market of vocalists who have traded singing for coloratura runs and performance for posing. It's Your Love sounds like something that might have come out back when Ike and Tina were still together. Moving out in front has done wonderful things for Doolittle, and her voice on Coming Back To You appears to have grown in stature and soul since her Idol days. Coming Back To You is a classic R&B ballad, and likely a single, but may not be the strongest song on the CD.

Declaration Of Love, on the other hand, is the highlight of the disc. Doolittle opens up like a flower on this one and belts her way to musical glory. Melinda Doolittle has that rare double of being able to sing a song to life as well as being able to sell it on personality alone. When the two aspects of her personality and talent come together Doolittle lights up a stage like a bonfire, and this song is likely to be a concert favorite for years to come. Wonderful has a great soul groove to it. Doolittle finds the pop heart of this song without selling it out; giving a nuanced and personal performance that will touch listeners.

Dust My Broom has that touch of theatrical wonder that only a seasoned performer can master. Melinda Doolittle has the ability to reach out through the speakers and connect with listeners in a way that some artists struggle to do even in a live environment. Her voice here is at its absolutely best. The music industry just hasn't heard this kind of explosive voice in a while. Aretha and Tina are still around of course, but Melinda Doolittle might be ready to take up their respective crowns. Other highlights include I'll Never Stop Loving You, If I'm Not In Love, Walkin' Blues and We Will Find A Way.

It's been clear from her very first appearance on American Idol that Melinda Doolittle was a special talent. Idol alumni have been a mixed bag in the sales department, and even more suspect in the quality department. Chris Daughtry, Kellie Pickler and Carrie Underwood have all had great success towing the pop line while giving up some of the character and personality that made them stars on the show. Kelly Clarkson has broken out somewhat from that mold only to see her sales plummet. Taylor Hicks built up the biggest persona on the show, but gave up his personality to the production team on his eponymous major label debut. The same goes for Ruben Studdard and Fantasia Barrino, both of whom were disappointing in spite of winning their respective years. Melinda Doolittle has stayed true to what made her a star on Idol, and has created, by far, the best album to come out of an Idol alumni to date (I've yet to hear David Cook's debut, but its hard to imagine him topping Coming Back To You). Melinda Doolittle's sound isn't as commercial as many of those who have come before her, but I'll bet this album outsells all of her predecessors. Coming Back To You is pure gold, a Wildy's World Certified Desert Island Disc. Its a must for Doolittle fans; fans of classic R&B and soul, and anyone looking for good, quality music sung with a lion's heart.

Rating: 5 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about Melinda Doolittle at You can pre-order Coming Back To You at