Vocalist Teraesa Vinson (PhD) may have left the world of academia behind when she moved to New York City in 2003 to pursue a new career as a singer but, as evidenced on Vinson's sophomore release Next to You, the trained psychologist still has the ability to connect the emotional with the physical. Not only does Vinson work to connect with the music, but there is also an implied emotional and physical connection in the CD's title, cover photo and even in the CD inlay, where the title song's love-tinged lyrics appear beneath a full length photo of Vinson.
The element of connection is what drives most musicians. Be it a desire for the artist to connect with the music or the audience, a musician's ability to connect is what separates the successful from the unsuccessful. While there are a few moments on Next to You where the singing and the music sound separate, overall Vinson shows that she is on the path to success.
Vinson works in duet with guitarist Tom Dempsey on twelve songs the two have performed together in various musical settings for nearly four years. Only the title track is an original written by Dempsey; the remaining songs represent a mix of jazz staples and pop songs. Vinson maintains a beautifully consistent tone throughout.
Her voice is soft and sweet on the standouts "Triste and "You Taught My Heart to Sing, warm and inviting on Duke Ellington's "Just Squeeze Me and strong and confident on "Opportunity Please Knock, a song that Vinson both performed and featured as the title song on her 2004 Amplified Records debut. Each of these songs works, because Dempsey acts as the id that fuels Vinson's vocal ego. Dempsey exercises thoughtfulness in his playing and Vinson reciprocates in her delivery.
The pair does fall short on the popular songsSteve Perry's "Foolish Heart and Stevie Wonder's "Ribbon in the Sky. On Perry's song, Vinson and Dempsey both sound good, but they sound more separate here than on any of the other songs. With no other supporting cast, the lack of cohesion is easier to hear and, as a result, the song doesn't work. While the interplay between the two on "Ribbon in the Sky is better, Vinson's delivery of the longing expressed in the song's lyrics is not believable, thus coming across as empty.
Despite whatever shortcomings the disc may have, Next to You is still a solid recording. Hurrah to Vinson for leaving her comfort zone and pursuing her dreams. There is only one direction to go from here.
Personnel: Teraesa Vinson: vocals; Tom Dempsey: guitar.