Kendall Payne,
Jordan's Sister
(Capitol, 1999)

Kendall Payne's debut album, Jordan's Sister, runs the gamut from gentle melodies to pop culture musings to sing-along rockers. Which is a good thing, since Payne's voice is versatile enough to make listening to each song, despite the wide array of sounds, a pleasant experience.

"Closer to Myself," the first track, has all the makings of a hit song -- a strong chorus, vibrant rhythms, and introspective lyrics. Chances are, this song will be the reason most folks will buy Payne's CD. However, the songs that follow make sure that this isn't just one of those one-hit wonders. On "Supermodels," Payne makes a sarcastic swipe at superficial beauty; while some of the lines fall a bit flat, her attitude and delivery make singing along a real pleasure.

Opening with a combination of toy piano and acoustic guitar, "Wonderland" showcases the fragile strength of Payne's voice, not to mention some of the most compelling lyrics on the entire album. "Honest" is another lyrical beauty about truth and lies in relationships, while "The Second Day" features a wider vocal range and the stirring sounds of a cello in the background.

Payne gets serious with "It's Not the Time," a song about a young girl who's pregnant, unmarried and considering abortion. However, Payne doesn't sentimentalize the situation; the piano, thudding bass and drums compliment the almost angry questions of the lyrics. "On My Bones" gets just a little too serious, with heavy philosophical musings and rhymes that are just a little too obvious. "Modern Day Moses" gets things back on track with chanting African rhythms and a spiritual choir-like chorus.

The last few songs on the CD all seem reminescent of her other songs, with the exception of "Perfect by Thursday" and "Fatherless at 14." The first one mixes up some rousing country sounds with a fast-talking delivery; "Fatherless at 14" heads in the opposite direction. Written for a young family friend to "help aid the healing process," this song is a real tear-jerker. Payne's voice kept me quivering just at the verge of breaking into tears, yet I kept a smile on my face the entire time, too.

All in all, Jordan's Sister (Payne really does have a sister named Jordan) is a strong first album. This is another good thing, since she's being touted as a "one-woman Lilith Fair." But Kendall Payne proves she's talented enough to carve out her own place in the heirarchy.

[ by Audrey M. Clark ]

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