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Ring Around the Moon

By Bill Hayes

A spark of hope

Jan James

Blue Palace Records
www.janjames.com

It’s hard to believe that it has been seven years since I first heard Jan James perform. She was onstage in West Bend, Wisconsin, at the Harley-Davidson 100th Anniversary Celebration. At that time I thought that she was one of the best female vocalists I’d ever heard, and I’m even more convinced of that now.

As the years have passed, Jan has gotten nothing but better. She’s even more smooth and sophisticated in her ability to use that strong, beautiful voice to convey the compelling music and lyrics she writes with her partner, Craig Calvert.

Ring Around the Moon is Jan’s 10th album. She describes it as “a spark of hope ready to catch fire.” And she’s right. It’s also a work with a theme and a tone—a theme and tone of hope; of appreciating all that life has to offer. The cut Right on Time should speak to all of us: “This is a plentiful world. Go fill your arms if you are strong enough. Like the rarest form of a pearl, blessings come to those who don’t hesitate…”

The pure sound of Jan James’ voice will haunt you. The melody lines created by Jan and Craig dance between jazz, blues, R&B, country (I love the dobro and pedal steel) and rock—they, too, are haunting. The CD’s first selection, The World Will Wait, is almost anthem-like. Every time I hear it I feel it should be one of those soundtrack themes of a major motion picture—the kind of thing that conjures up a million images each time it’s played.

The cut You Oughta Know is the life story of many of us. Grains of Sand should kick off every Sunday morning at your local get-out-of-your-seat-and-dance charismatic church. Every piece on this album speaks to all of us in some way.

I have always considered myself to be a true connoisseur of female vocal talent—from Janis to Tracy Nelson, from Bonnie Raitt to Aretha, from Ella to Etta, to all the greats in between. Jan James is definitely in that league—and Ring Around the Moon is definitely one of her best.

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