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Jaimee Paul: At Last

Among neophyte female vocalists, it’s an all-too-common trap. They grow up learning from Ella, Sarah, Lena, Peggy and Rosie, taking such masters’ signature tunes to heart. So when their turn behind the mike arrives, they offer up those same iconic songs in homage. Neophyte pop-jazz stylist Jaimee Paul is the latest witting victim.

In theory, it’s a rather sweet conceit. In practice, even as promising a newcomer as Paul can’t hope to replicate, or even emulate, Etta James’ near-orgasmic ecstasy throughout “At Last,” or the blend of assuredness and predatory heat that defines Peggy Lee’s “Fever,” or the embittered bite of Rosemary Clooney’s “Love, You Didn’t Do Right By Me,” or the morning-after satisfaction of Dinah Washington’s “What a Difference a Day Makes.”

As Paul works her way through 13 laudatory tracks, it’s difficult not to be reminded of the young Aretha Franklin, back in the day when Columbia was trying to force her into a Nancy Wilson mold, before Franklin found her true voice at Atlantic. Paul is blessed with a glorious voice (indeed, there’s significant evidence of Franklin’s raw majesty), one that deserves to travel under its own powerful steam rather than on the coattails of legends.

Originally Published