It's not an issue of which vocal style is better, but there's something about a whispery voice that gives some singers special appeal. Robin Avery is such a singer. Hailing from south Florida, this mother of three recently released her second albumand her first with Oar Fin Records. The Way You Hold Me is a smooth jazz album that expresses love in many ways, at times adding pop, Caribbean, and R&B flavors.
All but two of the tracks were co-written by Avery and her life partner, keyboardist and producer Paul Banman. One song, "Lovetrust, was written by Avery and Tim Bain. The lone cover song is "Drive, originally recorded by The Cars. "Under the Same Sky was so inspired by Avery's youngest son, Aaron, that she gave him co-writer credit along with herself and Banman. A confrontation with her oldest son provided the inspiration for "That Makes All the Difference.
With a variable lineup that features Banman on keyboards, Avery delivers an album loaded with charming melodies. The opener, "What Was on Your Mind, sets the pace. This mid-tempo ballad has Avery's voice out front, backed by a competent rhythm section that gives the song a fuller sound without getting in the way. Throughout, the bass lines and drum tracks are subtle, but effective enough that they don't sound like pre-fabricated beats.
Saxophonist Warren Hill joins the ensemble for the cover of "Drive. One of the nice things about this performance is that the background music doesn't follow the pattern set by The Cars, which makes it a cover worth hearing. Minnick's guitar programming deviates from the script, and Leo Brooks adds a nice touch with the bass. As with every song, however, the emphasis is on voice.
On the charmer "Under the Same Sky, Avery admonishes people of all backgrounds to come together and help one another: "The strong exploit the weak, all across our land / the homeless and the hungry, frightened minds won't lend a hand. Banman adds a nice keyboard soloa rarity on this album.
Apart from Hill's presence on "Drive, there are no memorable instrumental solos on this recording. Perhaps that's by design, because Avery's talent as a vocalist is what's on display. And she does a wonderful job throughout, at times tempting listeners to believe that Avery is singing directly to them. The Way You Hold Me is a keeper.
Track Listing: What Was on Your Mind; Finally Free; Ebb and Flow; Drive (featuring Warren Hill); That
Makes All the Difference; Kiss Me in the Rain; Sweet Release; Lovetrust; Under the Same
Sky; Little Girl.
Personnel: Robin Avery: lead and background vocals, additional keyboards; Paul Banman: keyboards;
Leo Brooks: bass; Orlando Contreras Jr., Robert Thomas Jr.: percussion; Larry Marshall,
Jonathan Joseph: drums; Beth Cohen, Karen Jones, Joy Francis, Rachel Perry: background
vocals; David Cabrera, Clarence Charles: guitar; Greg Minnick: guitar, drum programming;