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Jessi Colter
Out Of The Ashes
Shout Factory Records

That's right, folks… The only woman who could rowdy on down the mighty Waylon Jennings has just released her first recording in about two decades. And let me tell you, folks… it was well worth the wait. Out Of The Ashes finds Jessi Colter in fine form; both her tremendously rich voice and her amazing songwriting. While many of the songs on Out Of The Ashes tend towards a bit of a gospel feel, there are a few rowdier numbers that remind the listener just who they are listening to, and where her deep roots lie.

The album gets moving with the sweet sound of Jessi's voice as she soulfully sets the pace for the record with the stripped down gospel sound of "His Eye Is On The Sparrow". Jessi's voice is more soulful than most anyone on the radio these days, and its brilliance shines on a simple track, accompanied only by bass, piano, and strings. "You Can Pick 'Em" is an earthy and cool blues tune that would fit right in on a Lucinda Williams record. The song has not only the lyrical bite and vicious story that one would expect, but is filled with some great squawking guitar parts, as well. "The Phoenix Rises" is tremendously produced by Don Was, full of layers of tone and intricate and delicate instrumental parts that suitably buoy the tender vocals of Colter. This song is one of the most remarkable things I've heard of late, full of intense emotions and hope buried beneath the feelings of loss.

By the time we get to "Out Of The Rain", it seems no surprise to hear Waylon's voice and his distinctive guitar playing. Tony Joe White, who wrote the song, also joins in on this tune; one that will surely make many best of lists for 2006. Listening to the song, one is hard-pressed to remember that Waylon has been gone for more than a year now… but this is one way that he survives in more than only memories. The soulful, slow country groove sends shivers down my spine. Jessi lays down an awesome cover of Bob Dylan's "Rainy Day Women #12 & 35", complete with the slurred hop of the piano and the lilting harmonica parts. It's nearly verbatim, but has a distinctive feel and life of its own. Some melancholy strings carry "So Many Things", a smoky tune that could be lifted out of a cabaret in days past. There's a gently rolling country beat behind "Never Got Over You", which finds Jessi sounding more contemporary. Ray Herndon joins in on vocals and guitar on this track, one which he co-wrote with Jessi. It's a beautiful song that brings a sort of joyful sentimentality to the record, bringing gladness back to the album after a few songs of melancholy. This all leads to "Please Carry Me Home", a song written by Jessi and Shooter Jennings, and sung by them both. Jessi's piano playing is as powerful on this tune as her voice, sung with the fervor of a Southern Gospel singer, and Shooter makes his dad proud here as well.

If you're looking for real soul music, forget about the AAA stuff you've been hearing. Toss aside your Norah Jones records and do yourself a favor… Get Out Of The Ashes and rediscover just what soul music is supposed to be.

-Embo Blake

Track Listing:
1. His Eye Is On The Sparrow
2. You Can Pick 'Em
3. Starman
4. Phoenix Rises, The
5. Out Of The Rain - (with Waylon Jennings/Tony Joe White)
6. Velvet & Steel
7. Rainy Day Women #12 & 35
8. You Took Me By Surprise
9. So Many Things
10. Canyon, The
11. Never Got Over You
12. Please Carry Me Home - (with Shooter Jennings)

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