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Debut album from Canada's Jenny James glows with slick craftsmanship and authentic soul

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She has just caught the ears of the U.K. radio airwaves, and her producer is a Juno award winner. The stars are aligning for Canadian singer/songwriter Jenny James, whose recently released debut album Aspiring 2 B Me glows with the slick craftsmanship and authentic soul of a veteran performer, which she actually is. James has been entertaining audiences since the age of five, singing and playing piano and guitar.

Produced by Eddie Bullen, Aspiring 2 B Me is a mature, classy effort, one that taps into James' strengths as a vocalist. There is no doubt that Bullen's presence is a significant factor in this. He knows how to bring out the velvety softness of her voice while allowing her to reach for the heavens when the lyrics call for it; more importantly, James manages to avoid any of the histrionics that plague many female singers since the heyday of Whitney Houston. This is immediately apparent on the ballad “Part of You." Atop a blanket of shimmering piano, James slides back and forth between heartfelt crooning to a big, exuberant rush of emotion.

Like many young artists making an impact in the contemporary pop scene, James refuses to be categorized. “Part of You," for example, could be labeled as easy listening—it's not a shock to discover that the tune was originally meant for Celine Dion. However, the rest of Aspiring 2 B Me tinkers with R&B, electronica, and jazz. James handles it all effortlessly. “Love 101," the track that is currently blasting on British airwaves, is incandescent smooth jazz while “Love Was In Your Heart" has a wind-swept cinematic feel.

The daughter of two singers, James certainly has music in her blood; on Aspiring 2 B Me, she stakes claim to her own identity, dazzling the listener at each unexpected turn.

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