Mr. Henderson explained my musical influences so well. Does he know me better than I know myself? Thanks for checking out this Albumette Review. 🙂
|Artist: Deborah E
Review by Alex Henderson
Music has certainly had its share of generation gaps over the years. Just as there were members of the World War I Generation who didn’t understand the traditional pop crooners of the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s and members of the World War II Generation who never cared for rock & roll or funk, there are aging Baby Boomers who will never comprehend what members of Generation X and Generation Y see in hip-hop or alternative metal. But some artists make a point of looking to different generations for creative inspiration; for example, Nellie McKay and Norah Jones are two very different adult alternative singer/songwriters who have jazz and traditional pop influences as well as pop-rock and soul. On her five-song EP, Albumette, Los Angeles-based vocalist Deborah E leaves no doubt that more than one generation has affected her in a positive way. This is a recording that has one foot in swing, jazz-influenced traditional pop and jump blues and the other in pop-rock, soul and adult alternative, but Deborah never sounds confused or unfocused. In fact, she makes it sound perfectly natural for someone who has been influenced by Peggy Lee and Ella Fitzgerald to also be cognizant of a rock & roll/R&B; era. Deborah’s bio states that when she was growing up, she would watch Rosemary Clooney and Doris Day musicals one minute and “Soul Train” the next. Albumette bears that out.
This EP gets off to a very bluesy and jazz-influenced start with a sultry performance of the old Paul Francis Webster/Sonny Burke standard “Black Coffee,” which goes back to the late 1940s and has been recorded by countless artists over the years. Lee’s influence is quite strong on “Black Coffee” (a song she recorded in the early 1950s), and the impact of the World War II Generation is equally evident on the playful, swinging “Just Say When” (which has a jump blues-ish energy). But again, Albumette is not a carbon copy of World War II generation music even though it gets a great deal of inspiration from that era. Deborah embraces one of the quintessential Baby Boomer classics when she performs “Killing Me Softly,” which was a major hit for Roberta Flack in 1973 and also became a big hit for the Fugees (with Lauryn Hill singing lead) 23 years later in 1996.
Flack, it should be noted, was a unique figure in 1970s music in that she managed to bridge the gap between the R&B; world and the world of folk-rock, soft rock and singer/songwriters. Flack appealed to Joan Baez, Joni Mitchell, and Judy Collins fans as well as to Aretha Franklin and Gladys Knight fans. And the blend of soul and folk-rock/soft rock that she favored on “Killing Me Softly” made her recording so definitive that it is pointless for anyone to try to emulate it. The Fugees, wisely, took the gem in a hip-hop-influenced neo-soul direction rather than trying to emulate Flack’s recording, and Deborah is also smart enough to put her own personal spin on “Killing Me Softly.” Deborah’s version has R&B; and pop-rock appeal, but it is also enjoyably jazzy. “Killing Me Softly” works well for Deborah because she sounds like herself instead of trying to sound like Roberta Flack.
Deborah has an introspective side as well as a fun side; “Black Coffee,” “Killing Me Softly” and “Perfectly Wonderful World” are examples of her introspective side, whereas her fun side asserts itself on “Just Say When” and “Only Temporary” (another track with a jump blues-like appeal). Easily the EP’s most humorous offering, “Only Temporary,” puts a positive spin on some negative things (including a bad job and a disappointing boyfriend) by concluding that they are, in fact, only temporary.
As strong as the jazz influence is on Albumette, those who are seriously into jazz will realize that Deborah isn’t a jazz purist or a straight-ahead bebopper. In other words, she doesn’t scat-sing her way through Charlie Parker’s “Ornithology” or Thelonious Monk’s “Well, You Needn’t.” Deborah is a very different type of singer from, say, Kitty Margolis or Judy Niemack; that isn’t where she is coming from on this EP. Rather, Albumette’s strength lies in the L.A. resident’s ability to take elements of jazz, pop-rock, soul and blues and bring them together in an appealing, meaningful way. And her appreciation of different styles from different generations serves her well on the consistently enjoyable Albumette.
Review by Alex Henderson