Canadian vocalist Emma Lee is much more than a pretty
voice. Her new CD Backseat Heroine demonstrates the acrobatic
ability of her vocal chords and the control she executes over
the limberness and endurance of her voicing. When she sings a
verse, it's never flat. She injects specially conceived accents
and nuances on the syllables which emote tenderness and authenticity
into the songs. Like the cliché goes, "If I could
sing like her, I wouldn't be writing about it, I'd be doing it."
Dedicated to her father Lance Doty (who is recorded playing
the mandolin on "Bring Back Your Love"), Backseat
Heroine is produced by Lee, Marc Rogers, and Karen
Kosowski who enlisted the services of a number of musicians
for the recordings, including string and horn arrangements. There
are Tex-Mex overtones in the slinky horns strewn along the bridge
of "Not Coming By," and a soft rustling in the willowy
acoustics of Christine Bougie's lap steel guitar in "Just
Looking." The sullen tone of the piano keys performed by
Karen Kosowski in "Phoenix" insert a bluesy tint as
Lee's vocals stretch and recede creating a spiritual aria brushed
by stroking strings. The effect is uplifting.
The country western trot of "Today's Another Yesterday"
seems like a simple melody but Lee's vocal hooks and the vocal
harmonies of Luke Doucet give the track depth. The rhythmic
knolls of "Figure It Out" have an R&B texture, and
the soft pop facets of "I'll Dream For You" exude a
summery feel. The country folk paddling of "Bring Back Your
Love" pervade a breezy atmospherics as Lee induces poignant
accents on the syllables of the lyrics. "Shadow Of A Ghost"
has an infectious rocking beat with a bluegrass trajectory while
the pensive stride of the keys in"I Could Live With Dying
Tonight" bolsters a prayer-like sound in Lee's voice.
Lee's lyrics reflect on the past, present, and future. The past
is depicted in "Today's Another Yesterday" as she gleans,
"The same two hearts with different beats / We're not gonna
change making all the same mistakes / Today's another yesterday."
The present is portrayed in "Just Looking" as she observes,
"I've rolled the dice unconcerned of the consequences / I've
done it twice never listening to the lessons I've learned / But
with you, I'm just looking." The future is exemplified in
"I Could Live With Dying Tonight" as she reflects, "You're
never lost at sea / As long as you keep good company / When the
wind blows I will go / But where I'll wash up, heaven knows."
Emma Lee's new recording bares herself in the lyrics and the
vocal hooks she executes. With all the stylistic swagger and polish
of a pop singer-songwriter, the album is unpretentious and cuts
to the core of what makes Emma Lee a penetrative vocalist.
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