Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Records We Missed:: Jill Barber Chances

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It's getting close to the end of the year, which means lists. Lots and lots of lists. I've been cobbling together mine and have a pretty good idea who's in and who's out, but we always miss some great albums. So, in an attempt to right those wrongs, over the next week or so we are trying to get up to speed on some hidden gems.

I know Shane mentioned the talented Jill Barber only a week ago, but Chances really deserves a bit more attention. Somehow I thought we had already reviewed the disc, but even more importantly, somehow I thought I had given Chances a quality listen. As it turns out... I was wrong on both counts.

The appropriately titled Chances shows Barber taking a huge risk. Instead of her more rootsy/singer songwriter efforts of the past, Jill transforms herself into a 50's era jazz singer, one capable of leading big band arrangements or nuzzling up beside a solitary piano player. She challenges her songwriting by collaborating with talented people (Ron Sexsmith, The Sojourners) and succeeds on every level.

Almost to a review, people talk about the timeless quality of Jill voice, but in my opinion the best compliment you can give her is how authentic her voice sounds. We've all heard piano bar singers attempting to take us back to the greats, but instead of hoping to channel Ella, Barber lets her own style be an important ingredient in the recipe and as a result, you never question her integrity or ability to deliver this kind of material. She manages to sound like a seasoned pro from an era long since passed, but never sounds dated.

Her vulnerability and compassion on tracks like Take It Off Your Mind mixes with cinematic strings to make the songs seem even more grandiose and tender. Even when she changes pace, like she does with the mountain folk stomp intro of Oh My My, the cohesive feel is never lost. It might seem obvious, but adding with the percussion, horns and suprising jazz flute that shows up to end the song or the string sections that balance the beautiful, soul-filled harmonies of Never Quit Loving You completely make the songs work.

With all the classic elements - the xylophone on the fantastic duet with Sexsmith (Old Flame), the strings and harmonies on Leaving You or the horn work and melody on the instant classic Be My Man, even the jazz classic LP feel of the cover art - Chances could be mistaken for a jazz standard on a casual listen, but the more you listen the more you are won over by Jill's emotion. She seems so comfortable singing beautiful, end of the night numbers like One More Time, you wonder where she's been hiding this talent over the years.

Normally, this type of music hovers in the background of a lazy Sunday or a intimate gathering, but Chances grabs the spotlight, even without trying. Looks like both Barber siblings might be gracing our Best-of list this year.


Jill Barber - Oh My My
Special treat courtesy of b(oot)log. A terrific cover of Jill's all-time favorite song Moon River.

Posted at 2:30 PM by ack :: 2 comments

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At 12:48 PM, Blogger Boost Ventilator did sayeth:

"I know Shane mentioned the talented Jill Barber only a week ago..."

Just out of curiosity, how do readers tell who wrote the different articles?


At 12:58 PM, Blogger naedoo did sayeth:

A good question...check for this at the bottom of each post:

Posted at 2:30 PM by ack

ack = Bryan
naedoo = Shane

Thanks for asking!


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