Julie Lavender: Never Felt the Sun (2005)

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How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

The New Age music that Julie Lavender surrounds herself with carries an emotional appeal through its simple pleasures and relaxed composure. Classical music and folk music in a contemporary setting give the singer vast opportunities for exploring the contemplative universe.

Trained as a classical guitarist, Lavender owns a solid musical background to support her ideas. She employs a variety of auras, from mainstream jazz to Broadway, smooth jazz, and telltale folk singing.

"Tin Man," an original song that offers inspiration and heartfelt charm, features vibraphonist Anthony Wilson in a straight-ahead jazz setting. Lavender's smoky vocal delivery gives the piece a seductive ingredient that proves quite convincing.

While several of her ballads reveal a wider modulation in tone and an awkward separation of voice from accompaniment, Lavender remains convincing through most of the album. Her arrangement of "Velvet Arms of Midnight" allows her vocal interpretation to swoon deeply, and her arrangement of "When I Fall in Love" places her voice behind an overpowering wall of synths and strings.

She's at her best with jazz and classical pieces that utilize acoustic instruments and allow her voice to take center stage. "Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5" and "Tin Man" stand out as the session's high points.

Visit www.julielavender.com for audio samples from the album.

Track Listing: Never Felt the Sun; Stop; Veil; Tree; Tin Man; Morning Song; Velvet Arms of Midnight; Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5 for Soprano and Violoncelli I. Aria (Cantilena); When I Fall ; Here Come the Dreamers.

Personnel: Julie Lavender- vocals, acoustic guitar, piano; Kamau Kenyatta- keyboards, piano, soprano saxophone; Hugh Martin- piano; Darryl Williams, Dave Curtis- electric bass guitar; Rob Thorsen, Kristen Korb- bass; Danny Campbell, Duncan Moore, Richard Sellers- drums; Tommy Aros, Allan Phillips, Christiano Novelli- percussion; Peter Sprague- guitar; Anthony Smith- vibraphone; Bill Shreeve, Hubert Laws- flute; Paul Sundfor- clarinet, flute; John Rekevics- clarinet, bass clarinet; Johannes Farber- trumpet; Alan Grant, John Dutton- French horn; Edmund Stein, John Stubbs- violin; Marcie Brown, Marcia Bookstein, Mary Lindstrom- cello.

Record Label: Covenant Records

Style: Vocal

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