Jenifer Jackson

Birds

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Jenifer Jackson, a New York City-based singer/songwriter, is the daughter of legendary jazz radio DJ Julian Jackson and her vocal style owes a lot to the school of jazz vocals exemplified by Astrud Gilberto, Blossom Dearie, and Chet Baker. Clear, vibrato-free, and with a spun-glass delicacy, her voice gives the lightest songs on the album, like the early-Joni Mitchell-style "The First Day of Winter," a shivery beauty. Musically, however, Birds has only a few jazzy elements -- a Milt Jacksonish vibes solo here, a bossa nova beat there -- in its mostly folk-rock-based, largely acoustic songs. "Trouble Fire," with its expressive harmony vocals by Josh Rouse, and the pure country "What You Said" are more indicative: droning Hammond organ, slippery pedal steel, shimmering overdubbed acoustic guitars, and brushed drums dominate these 12 songs. Producer Brad Jones gives the album a hazy, miasmic quality -- especially on the near-psychedelic "Mercury the Sun and Moon" -- which adds an ethereal edge to even the earthiest and most plain-spoken songs. The results suggest what Hazeldine would have sounded like if they'd brought their moody, dark pop instincts to the foreground of their songs, or perhaps an alt-country Michael Penn. Dreamily sensual and surprisingly substantial, Birds is an unexpected, genre-mixing surprise.

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