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Jacqui Naylor: Shelter

In the never-ending “next big thing” sweepstakes, bet on Jacqui Naylor to be a frontrunner. The striking Californian spent nearly a decade dabbling with voice lessons and gospel choirs while pursuing a marketing career before deciding, just six years ago, to devote her full attention to singing and songwriting. She bears a striking resemblance to Diana Krall and echoes the Canadian diva’s roundly rich sound. Naylor’s voice suggests, though, a slightly deeper sensuality and is charged with a strong jolt of Norah Jones’ folk-jazz electricity. Of the 14 tracks that fill Shelter, her third release on her own Ruby label, 11 are originals featuring Naylor lyrics and music by pianist Art Khu. All are Joni Mitchell good (though Khu’s style seems more evocative of early Paul Simon). From the sweet melancholy of the title track and silken caress of “If You Know Love” to the slow-melting optimism of “Winter,” Naylor and Khu prove themselves tremendously gifted at shaping soft-lit tales of romance lost and found. It is, though, in two saucier numbers that Naylor’s poetry shines brightest. On the delicious “Cheese Puff Daddy” and again on “Tired” she slices and dices testosterone-fueled male bravado with Samurai precision. Elsewhere, she does her friend Joseph Wilson proud with a soaring version of Wilson’s “I Remember You” that serves as a singularly beautiful eulogy to friends lost to AIDS. And in what is surely a first among jazz covers, Naylor serves up a sensationally sexy rendition of the Rolling Stones’ “Miss You” that captures the lyric’s predatory hunger even better than the pouty, strutting Mick.

Originally Published