Kelly Sweet, We Are One (Razor & Tie)

late night rendezvousIf you want some seriously beautiful vocal music to chill out to this holiday season, look no further than Kelly Sweet--a multi-talented 18-year old with the voice of angel (always nice to hear angels at Christmas!). Dave Koz seemed overjoyed to introduce her to his fans on his summer tour and her gossamer vocal on “White Christmas” is a highlight of his new CD Memories Of A Winter Night. Her press materials describe her voice with some powerful superlatives like “supernaturally crystalline,” “hushed and hymnlike.” She  truly lives up to those descriptions and more as she transports the listener to some fascinating spiritual realms on her debut CD, which was produced by onetime Rippingtons keyboardist and Grammy nominee Mark Portmann.

The most unique thing about Sweet’s debut is that just when you think it’s going to follow a certain direction, she changes not only the style of the music just a bit, but also the way she uses her voice. The opening track, the whispery, super-spiritual “We Are One” is soothing, ambient chill that’s reminiscent of Enya, while “Raincoat”—though still completely graceful—is a haunting and seductive, pure pop love ballad. Then she does the most unique, ethereal twist on Aerosmith’s rock classic “Dream On” you’ve ever heard, touching on new emotions which will inspire the listener to realize the true depth of what Steven Tyler sang years ago. In association with legendary producer David Foster, Portmann has worked extensively with Josh Groban and Celine Dion in recent years, and while Sweet’s operatic tones on the French language interlude “Caresse Sur L’Ocean” are more subtle than those two, the song is still an incredible showcase for her “popera” skills. Sweet is also developing as a formidable songwriter, and the first of her four co-writes, the sly and dreamy “Crush,” features stunning textured vocals that come across almost as an inner conversation between the artist and her feelings over a guy she likes.

She’s also wonderful while soaring gracefully on the soothing pop ballad “Ready For Love,” which keeps the chillout mode going as she taps deeper into the listener’s heart. The Groban connection shines through on the lovely and romantic Italian language operatic piece “Giorno Dopo Giorno,” whose lyrics were penned by Marco Marinangelli, who weaves words for Groban’s Italian songs. If you think you know Sweet’s vibe from the songs that have come before, this track will change things up a bit. It’s an exciting twist that allows her voice to soar to the stratosphere—sure, to the realm of angels! After another solid co-written ballad (“I Will Be Waiting”), she returns to the less commercial but much deeper spiritual path on the uplifting “Now We Are Free,” the Sanskrit theme (co-written by film composer Hans Zimmer) from The Gladiator. Just when Sweet’s chilled us completely, she ups the tempo on super-hip, acoustic singer-songwriter vibe on “How ‘Bout You?” (probably the most mainstream pop tune here!). Before closing with the dreamy and mystical partially French language tune “Je T’aime,” she picks an amazing obscure song from Elton John’s 1971 album Tumbleweed Connection, adding a gentle grace to the simple lyrics penned long ago by the song’s writer Lesley Duncan.              

The typical smooth jazz fan who likes overpowering, urban inflected pop melodies and funky danceable grooves may take some time to warm up to the sensuous cool that is Kelly Sweet, but give her a chance and she’ll grow on you—seducing you in ways that few contemporary singers can. Check this out and you’ll be dreaming of a White Christmas really soon! and label website:

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- Jonathan Widran