When a CD lists John Coltrane's son Ravi Coltrane as its executive producer, one naturally assumes that it contains jazz. Ravi Coltrane does serve as executive producer on Grove House, but this is not a jazz album per se. Instead, what singer/songwriter Debbie Deane offers on this memorable CD is best described as folk-rock with jazz and R&B overtones. Although Deane isn't performing any jazz on Grove House (which is her second album), she definitely appreciates it -- the Brooklyn resident studied jazz extensively during her days at Berklee College of Music in Boston -- and she also has a healthy appreciation of Joni Mitchell, another folk-minded singer/songwriter who has been affected by jazz. Mitchell was never a jazz singer in the strict sense, but jazz certainly influenced her; one of Mitchell's '70s albums was named Mingus (after Charles Mingus), and Deane obviously admires the way Mitchell can bring jazz elements into a folk-rock setting -- which is exactly what Deane does on Mitchell-influenced tracks such as "Yesterday" (not to be confused with the Beatles' classic), "Slow It Down," "Sailor Song," and "Down, Down, Down." But Deane doesn't actually emulate Mitchell any more than she emulates Roberta Flack, who has also influenced Deane either directly or indirectly. Although Flack is known primarily as an R&B/pop singer, some of her early hits were definitely influenced by folk -- most notably "Killing Me Softly" and "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" -- and Deane often brings to mind that side of Flack. Nonetheless, Deane always sounds like her own person on this fine sophomore effort.
Grove House Review
by Alex Henderson