Beth Stalker

Hallelujah, I Love Him So

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A southeastern Michigan (born in Detroit) vocalist with an unwieldy but authentic name, Beth Stalker is a young singer who has explored various approaches including Christian, folk, and pop/rock musics. But she is at heart a jazz singer, and tackles this program of well-known standards backed by the excellent pianist Cliff Monear and his working trio. Stalker has a stylized voice and works within a limited range, although she can stretch into higher octave and atmospheric levels on command. Comfortable within a midrange, using a slight vibrato, and more sultry that her age would indicate, she also reveals country or rhythm & blues influences, and many typical and charming references or treatments in phrasing. At her and the combo's best, bassist Nick Calandro neatly introduces "I'm Gonna Lock My Heart and Throw Away the Key" alongside Stalker, then Monear and drummer Scott Kretzer on brushes join in and break into a bop gallop. The easy swinging "What Is This Thing Called Love?" has an innocent quality reflective of the singer's age and inexperience, but it is rendered with great honesty. A hard bop version of the spiritual "Just a Closer Walk with Thee" is unique unto itself, bright and upbeat with the extraordinary Monear in fifth gear. Of the more stock arrangements and treatments, the title track is a typical shuffle as the composer Ray Charles would want it, "Until the Real Thing Comes Along" an easy and slow plea, "Stormy Weather" the laid-back calm before an alleged storm, and "This Bitter Earth" taken in a cowgirl lope. "Natural Woman," written by Carole King and popularized by Aretha Franklin, has an arranged intro by Monear that apes "All Blues," but merges effortlessly into familiar R&B soul territory. The trio is top-notch, as good as you'll find anywhere, but fails to inspire Stalker to any lofty heights. She does not extrapolate, scat, or offer anything other than singing lyrics as they are written. This is not a bad thing, but given her clear talent, solid intonation, and pleasing voice, this CD is but a prelude for the potential she should someday realize and attain.

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