Jessica Rhaye,
Jessica Rhaye
(self-produced, 2000)

This debut album by Jessica Rhaye is really impressive. Rhaye has a strong, clear and versatile voice, which is supported by her talents as a songwriter and a knack for good melodies. Since first hearing the album, I've listened to it again several times, each time liking it more. The sound could best be characterized as folk/pop, but several of the songs could just as easily pass for country music.

Rhaye, who hails from the Canadian town of Hampton, New Brunswick, is the lead vocalist and writer of all 10 tracks on the album. She also provides some background vocals with Lisa Anthony. Lead and acoustic guitar are by Mike Hanlon, electric bass by Mike Burley, and Kim Dunn plays keyboards, organ and piano. Paul Owen is on drums and percussion, while a number of tracks feature guest musicians.

The majority of songs on this recording are of a pleasant, rather mellow variety, well suited to singing along whilst puttering about the house or driving in the car on a sunny day. Rhaye has an appealing voice -- smooth, strong and pleasant -- as well as a talent for writing songs which listeners can easily identify with. Her style is one that could fall into many categories, and be appreciated by a broad range of listener. The instrumentals are most characteristic of pop music, featuring guitars, keyboards, bass and drums; but could just as easily change the tone to have a more country-like sound. On a few tracks, the overall sound is more acoustic, lending itself to the folk genre. Rhaye, with her versatile voice, is able to adapt well to any of these styles.

The instrumental arrangements are very well done on this album. With Rhaye's strong vocals, there really isn't the need for a whole lot of background instrumentation, and Rhaye, Hanlon and Owen apparently realized this. Although the accompaniment is there, and enjoyable in and of itself, it doesn't overshadow Rhaye's remarkable vocal talents. "No More Me and You" featured some wonderful acoustic guitar by Hanlon, and I quite like the fiddle and instrumentation in "Time Out," which has more of a country feel to it.

"I Breathe Your Light" is a slower song, with nice vocal harmonies. I also like the guitars and percussion on this track. "One Last Time" has a wonderful melody, and great piano tunes. The piano is again notable in "My World," with its lovely lyrics. "Intoxicated" is an excellent showcase for Rhaye's voice and range, but is also excellent, instrumentally. I like the introduction, which has a good beat, strong guitar and piano, as well as some great harmonies. This song is followed by "Believing in Me," one of the more upbeat tunes on the album, with a catchy tune, thoughtful lyrics and a fantastic melody.

As a first release, I think that this album shows a great deal of maturity from Jessica Rhaye. The songs are professional and polished, as is the CD package itself. I can't think of a single song on the album that I do not like. Rhaye has a great vocal range and an appealing voice which should appeal to a wide audience. As a songwriter, Rhaye seems to have a good understanding of human nature, and the ability to express this understanding through her music. I expect that Canadians at least will be hearing a lot more from this young talent in the future.

[ by Cheryl Turner ]

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