Leigh Jones - Music In My Soul

Leigh Jones
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Very few descriptions have become as overused and contrived lately as "blue-eyed soul." Once a label applied to white musicians who sang with an R&B influence, it's been tossed around so often that any non-black performer with a sliver of "street cred" is placed in that category. Fortunately for true soul fans, Leigh Jones overcomes this cliché with her exquisitely enjoyable debut, Music in My Soul.

Don't let the blond mane and sun-kissed skin fool you; Ms. Jones is a certified California Girl, but her rich and honeyed soprano reveals influences of Toni Braxton rather than Christina Aguilera. Guided by the talents of pop producers Walter Afanasieff, Clark Anderson and iconic songwriter Bruce Fisher (responsible for the timeless "You Are so Beautiful"), Ms. Jones doesn't overwhelm with histrionics or drag listeners through tedious scale exercises; she's skilled and confident enough to give every verse the right amount of inflection, emotion and pitch.

Very few descriptions have become as overused and contrived lately as "blue-eyed soul." Once a label applied to white musicians who sang with an R&B influence, it's been tossed around so often that any non-black performer with a sliver of "street cred" is placed in that category. Fortunately for true soul fans, Leigh Jones overcomes this cliché with her exquisitely enjoyable debut, Music in My Soul.

Don't let the blond mane and sun-kissed skin fool you; Ms. Jones is a certified California Girl, but her rich and honeyed soprano reveals influences of Toni Braxton rather than Christina Aguilera. Guided by the talents of pop producers Walter Afanasieff, Clark Anderson and iconic songwriter Bruce Fisher (responsible for the timeless "You Are so Beautiful"), Ms. Jones doesn't overwhelm with histrionics or drag listeners through tedious scale exercises; she's skilled and confident enough to give every verse the right amount of inflection, emotion and pitch.

It's easy to understand why the legendary Motown founder Berry Gordy Jr. and his son, Kerry, have championed her  talents so fully; her vocals waft sultrily through the autobiographical title track like Nag Champa incense as she pledges to "tell my story in three-part harmony, every chord reflecting the heart of me," and she brings a warm, wistful edge to what could've been a by-the-numbers remake of the DeBarge classic, "All This Love," which also features the golden touch of bassist and producer Wayman Tisdale.  Another irresistible standout, "Free Fall," pleads her case for more TLC from a lover who too often runs hot and cold; "Why do you need me, cuz' it doesn't seem like you want me whenever I'm around. Why did you call me? You were busy last night, but tonight you want me to get down."

Also lending to the appeal of Music... is how the songs showcase her range and versatility. There's smoky jazz ("Same Game,"  "Goodbye"), torch balladry ("Who What Why," "Have It Your Way") and the rollicking doo-wop number "Can't Get Enough," which actually recalls Manhattan Transfer. It has to be Leigh's own lived-in wisdom that conveys the emotion behind "Sick of Fools," where she humorously calls out the game of every tired player in the book ("Lies with no money, underachievers, tongues dripping honey, all over my receiver."); and then there's "Cold In L.A.," painting vivid pictures of what outsiders may encounter after arriving with stars in their eyes and dreams on their sleeves: "the actresses, lay down on mattresses, dreaming they'll wake up where the action is. But if you're feeling like that's okay, then you can stay, but there's a price you gotta pay..."

Leigh Jones' Music in My Soul is inspired, authentic and one of the most satisfying releases of 2008. Given the chance, she is one of the few who will endure to display what true soul---blue-eyed or otherwise---is all about.

By Melody Charles

 

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