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Raconte-Moi... (2010)

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Stacey Kent

Over a dozen albums and several compilations, American-born British resident Stacey Kent has sung standards with polish and class, but perhaps her fans might not have expected the result on this CD. A program of tunes interpreted entirely in French, Kent here fancies herself as a modern-day Edith Piaf, with a very low-key, late-night, romantic approach. Her thin, wispy voice rides very much under the radar of these selections, with a small instrumental complement including pianist Graham Harvey, guitarist John Parricelli, and in select spots her husband, saxophonist Jim Tomlinson. Most of the tracks are French pop songs, but occasionally Kent sneaks in a ringer like Antonio Carlos Jobim's always delightful "Les Eaux de Mars" (Waters of March), and adds a Brazilian flavor to the title selection or calypso on the most upbeat number, "Mi Amor." Harvey's pristine piano is the telling factor on how this music inspires Kent to dig deep into her soul without pulling in demons or being extroverted. Though there are moments when the band swings, goes into a circular motion, or actually does a jazz standard ("It Might As Well Be Spring"), Kent and her mates stick to ballads and torch songs in the main. This is her second CD for the Blue Note label, more likely to appeal on a international European than stateside U.S. level, but it is heartfelt and purely soulful no matter the lyrics or language. ~ Michael G. Nastos