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Kellylee Evans: I Remember When

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For Kellylee Evans fans in her native Canada (and those south of the 49th parallel willing to pay big bucks for import CDs), I Remember When is nothing new. Fifteen months after its Canadian release, the album has finally made its domestic arrival. And patience has its virtues: The U.S. version deletes two of the weaker tracks and adds three stronger originals.

Though the disc follows on the heels of Evans’ album-length tribute to Nina Simone, it is closer in sound, spirit and energy to her jazz-soul gem Fight or Flight? from 2007. But scratch the “jazz.” Evans is now a full-fledged soul singer with freshly sharpened hip-hop influences.

The album’s backward-glancing title seems odd. With the exception of a wrenching reading of Gladys Knight’s “If I Were Your Woman,” this is a dynamically forward-looking Evans. For additional covers, she draws on an intriguing cross-section of contemporary songwriters, offsetting a caffeinated treatment of Stromae’s “Alors on danse” and astute reading of Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” with a prowling take on Kanye West’s “Amazing” and a gorgeous rendition of John Legend’s “Ordinary People.”

The eight remaining tracks, all originals, range from the keen self-actualization of “My Name Is” and survivalist fire of “Jungle” to the clever romanticism of the A Tribe Called Quest-inspired list song “You Got Me.” Most impressive, though, is one of the newly added tracks, “Built to Fly,” an homage to the superheroes within us all, artfully built atop Dr. Dre’s “Big Ego’s.”

Originally Published