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Album Review

It seems odd that this soothing and compelling, dreamy-voiced artist is billed as a singer/songwriter, since she didn't actually contribute to the composing of any of the 11 sumptuous tracks here. But that's just a technicality, and no matter at all, since Alyssa Graham conveys powerful emotions and silky charm over arrangements of originals and covers that range from moody and haunting Latin surrealism ("Echo") to sparse, gently percussive folk (Paul Simon's "America"), crisp and stylish pop ("My Love"), and hypnotic lounge jazz ("Pictures of You" and the irresistibly lovelorn "Butterflies"). Produced by Jon Cowherd (Lizz Wright, the Brian Blade Fellowship), Echo would be a compelling (if mostly low-key) listen even if it were just a gathering of random songs. But the concept helps illuminate some of the heartfelt lyrics: it's a musical travelogue that traces the arc of a modern-day love affair via jazz, pop, and even Brazilian rhythms. It was inspired by Graham's travels throughout Brazil, India, Africa, and Europe, and the object of her affection is her longtime love (and prominent lyricist and guitarist here), Douglas Graham. It covers a lot of emotional and geographic distance and offers a few clever surprises along the way, such as changing "Kathy" to "Doug" when she's longing on "America." While she closes the set with a graceful acoustic guitar-vocal twist on the standard "Once Upon a Summertime," the story behind the album's other standard-era tune (the haunting "Involved Again") somehow makes the second song even more compelling. Composer Jack Reardon wrote it originally for Billie Holiday, who was set to record it on her next album when she died. Reardon was so saddened by the loss that he shelved the song for 50 years until he heard Graham's debut, What Love Is, which prompted him to contact her and offer her the song. Her rendition is exquisite and makes one realize, thankfully, that the spirit of innovative legendary vocalists like Lady Day is alive and well in new artists like Alyssa Graham. Echo may take a few listens to penetrate the listener's heart, but once it's there, it resounds for a long time.

Biography

Genre: Singer/Songwriter

Years Active: '00s, '10s

Born in New Jersey to parents who instilled a love for all musical genres in their daughter, singer/songwriter Alyssa Graham took inspiration from Ella Fitzgerald, Bob Dylan, Dizzy Gillespie, Neil Young, Nancy Wilson, and the Temptations at an early age and later funneled those musical influences into her own music, which utilized both her multi-instrumental skills and jazz-styled vocal delivery. Although she ultimately established herself as a solo artist, Graham received her first boost with Blindman's...
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Echo, Alyssa Graham
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