Continuing to validate the theory that there must be something in the Welsh water, fiery-haired Sara Kempe is the latest classically trained vocalist to emerge from the country following the likes of Charlotte Church, Katherine Jenkins, and Natasha Marsh. Eschewing the ballgown style and operatic output of the latter two, the jeans-wearing Kempe's debut album, Let Me Fly, has more in common with the theatrical, easy listening pop of Laura Michelle Kelly and Kerry Ellis than her fellow native sopranos, thanks to the presence of producers Goldust, formerly of '90s boy band Ultra and Ben Robbins (Heather Small). Indeed, besides the closing number, a straightforward rendition of popular aria "Pie Jesu," its 12 tracks focus on string-soaked classical pop arrangements of modern chart hits which showcase Kempe's crystal-clear and sweetly soothing vocal tones. While there are a few ubiquitous song choices that will make you groan with complete apathy like Sting's "Fields of Gold" and Sarah McLachlan's "Angel," both seemingly a requisite of any classical crossover album of late, the rest of Let Me Fly is thankfully far less obvious. The swirling electronica of Madonna's "Frozen" and the anthemic, driving rock of Snow Patrol's "Chasing Cars" are given a gentle orchestral makeovers, thanks to some neo-classical piano chords, luscious snatches of harps, and subtle flashes of new age production, while her soaring and haunting interpretations of Keane's "Bedshaped" and David Gray's "This Year's Love" make the melancholic ballads sound like they were penned especially for her. Unusually for an album of this ilk, there is also a trio of original compositions. The title track, also the official single for the 2010 Ryder Cup, is an inspiring and emotionally stirring anthem which recalls Dame Kiri Te Kanawa's rugby union World Cup theme "World in Union," "The Wish," penned by former Fame Academy finalist Marli Harwood, is a wintry contemporary alternative to Les Miserables' number "Bring Him Home," while "Breathe Me in Slowly" is a piano-based love song inspired by Prince William and Kate Middleton's Royal Wedding, all of which suggest Kempe is capable of releasing an accomplished, entirely original effort in the future. But for now, Let Me Fly is a competent first effort, which with the exception of a few lazy and uninspired selections, is far less derivative and formulaic than her Welsh counterparts' debut offerings.
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AllMusic Review by Jon O'Brien