Monday, June 4, 2012

Halie Loren's Heart First on iTunes

This one slipped through the cracks for nearly two months, mostly because I received it from Dan Muzquiz of Blackbird Audio Gallery via an iTunes download, and my iTunes account was in a state of disrepair due to neglect and a failure to download any of the updates. I'm a Zune guy, after all, but I shouldn't let that prevent me from enjoying the latest from Halie Loren, Heart First. So apologies go to Dan, Halie and Halie's producer and pianist Matthew Treder.

I first wrote about Halie last September, when I reviewed her CDs After Dark, They Oughta Write a Song and the live album Stages. At the time I was spearheading a major backlash against all the recordings of female vocals that get overplayed at audio trade shows, and Halie's direct, emotional voice was the perfect antidote. As I wrote in that review:

"Halie stands out in the way she commits to the song. I read her press bio, which said something about her reputation of "knowing her way around a song," and I have to concur. She connects emotionally to each line in the same way Sinatra often did. You hear the feelings behind the words and you almost see her facial expressions as she breathes in and out between the verses. In other words, she's the anti-Krall, the polar opposite of aloof. There's something amazingly alive about that, and it's slightly intoxicating."

Coupled with her superb taste in covers, this commitment to the feeling expressed in each song is why Halie stands apart from her contemporaries, and Heart First is no different. In this album she takes on such challenges as Bob Marley ("Waiting in Vain"), Van Morrison ("Crazy Love") and even Charlie Chaplin's immortal classic, "Smile," which features a heart-felt button accordion performance from Sergei Teleshev that will take you back to the singular soulfulness of The Tramp like nothing else.

Halie also writes and performs her own songs, such as the delicate, cello-laced "In Time," which is dedicated to the people of Japan, where she has a huge following. This international flavor is also carried over into "C'est Si Bon," which Halie delivers convincingly in French; I've been on a big Serge Gainsbourg kick lately and her sultry voice is an intriguingly sexy counterpoint to Serge's guttural mumblings. And if you ever want to hear a Neil Young song sound light and whimsical, listen to her version of "Lotta Love." I'm not sure if I'm buying her overly-optimistic turn, but she is making me smile a lot while considering it.

I won't discuss the sound quality since this is iTunes, and I need to buy the CD. (I also won't discuss the multitude of workaround solutions I'll subsequently receive from the computer audio crowd; seriously, I'd rather buy the little silver disc than listen to all of the downloading possibilities.) But the three CDs I already have are superb and I suspect this one is too. Back when I reviewed Halie's other albums, I exchanged a few emails with Matt Treder and suggested that he put her music on vinyl. He was intrigued with the idea. Halie is the kind of singer who deserves to be heard on an LP, late at night, in a darkened room with a glass of Lagavulin. I'll be the first to order these albums all over again when that day comes.

Heart First is available in either CD or downloadable formats on Highly recommended, and still a great antidote to the glossy, too-cool-for-school female vocalists who dot the jazz landscape.

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