Sheryl Skye,
Ripple
(Soma River Records, 1999)

It was a sunny not-quite-spring day here in southern California when I popped this CD in for a spin. I didn't really want to be inside, but work was calling, and the last thing on my mind was listening to a CD from some woman I'd never heard of sing songs to her lover. I looked at the little "cheat sheet" the label had provided with the name and length of the songs and a little blurb about what each was about. (Presumably to let reviewers avoid having to actually read the lyrics. Some reviewers are just plain lazy.)

I settled in at my computer and pulled up a blank page while sweet, almost new-age-jazzy-lullaby music started out the disc. I was just starting to think about a shopping list when....

WHAM.

Sheryl Skye started singing. Big.

I blinked a few times, looked over the stereo to make sure I wasn't somehow mystically playing two CDs at once and thought briefly about exorcising the thing. This diminutive, kind saxophone melody was being sung over by a woman with a voice so big and deep that she could bulldoze redwoods.

*blink*

By the time the chorus hit, her voice started to make sense, and I was sitting at attention. From time to time, she'd hit a note in a particular tone that would sound like a cross between high school chorus and a hard rock yowl, but those were few and far between. Most of it was just a soulful, staccato kriya, backed up by an incredibly professional band of folks with impressive names. (For example, Jamey Haddad plays on this disc -- he's currently playing with Paul Simon and the Dave Liebman Group. We're talking some serious talent, here.)

Track two, "Fireflies," is definitely radio material. She'd be poorly served if this wasn't released as a single -- catchy and well-performed, it's much better than most of the drivel that's out there today.

Then there's track five, "Make It Good." If I'd heard this track to begin with, I'd buy the CD, just based on that one song. (Luckily, the rest of the CD would justify the purchase.) It's powerful, lush piano accompaniment to begin with, with Skye's deep, strong voice over the top in a growling sweetness that's so contradictory it's utterly engaging. Lyrically, it's heartrending. "When they gave me your wedding ring in a plastic bag / I understood what it means to come home / So if you have someone you really love / Make it short, make it long, but make it good."

This work was originally an EP in 1998. I've never heard that version of it, but I can say this: practice makes perfect. If it took an EP version to get Skye to Ripple, it was worth the expended time. This is a fantastic album, and I can't recommend it highly enough for anyone who likes the low rumble of a passionate vocalist and polished production.

I forgot all about the day outside, totally engaged in what I was hearing. And that's the highest recommendation I can give -- I don't give up sunny afternoons for bad music. Sheryl Skye is a new, and deserving, favorite.

[ by Elizabeth Badurina ]



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