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In her own voice

Kelly Sings Christy: Thou Swell
Kelly Sings Christy: Thou Swell
By Julie Kelly

CMG Records: 2002

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This review first appeared in the Summer 2003 issue of Turbula.

Julie Kelly has the sound of the 1950s down tight: the enunciation of the consonants, the cadence of the syllables, the timing of riding on top of the beat. She's even imbued with that sense of elegance and grace that was so prevalent then.

And so Ms. Kelly's tribute to June Christy captures all of the warmth and class of Christy on a set of songs identified with the late lounge singer.

What she doesn't have is a great set of pipes. Kelly's a warm, personable singer with chops to spare. But the lord didn't give her a memorable voice – there's none of that instant hook that grabs you, that says "This is Ella Fitzgerald" or "This is Billy Eckstine."

That lack of pure voice isn't necessarily fatal – Billie Holiday never had the prettiest voice around, nor did Frank Sinatra after he ruptured his voical cords after World War II.

If not at that level, Kelly is quite a memorable singer in her own right, with a wholly personal stylistic diction that clearly keep this from being any kind of wannabe session.

Instead, this is a salute from one jazz singer to another of a previous, influential generation. And the above-mentioned nods to the '50s aren't some kind of gimmick, they are simply part and parcel of the charm and talent of Ms. Kelly.