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Emma Lee
Backseat Heroine
eOne Music Records
www.emma-lee.com


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.

-Susan Frances

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