Thursday, June 15, 2006

Erin Boheme - What Love Is

What Love Is
Concord Jazz

With a stylish look that would fit in on American Idol, 19-year-old Erin Boheme bucks standard convention by avoiding the pop market in favor of an attempt at being a jazz singer. She has the voice for it and she had the good sense to not make her debut album the umpteenth interpretation of the Great American Songbook. In fact, six of the 11 tracks were co-written by Boheme. Yet, while What Love Is portrays a young singer with great potential, it also shows that she has yet to establish a strong identity.

Before the album was released, Boheme was already getting attention for “One Night With Frank.” In dreaming about Mr. Sinatra, the song references the titles of 19 of the Chairman’s signature hits, with the end results sounding corny and more like an attempt to gain approval from his audience. (It worked since she has his family’s blessing.) Her version of the Sammy Cahn-Gene DePaul standard “Teach Me Tonight” indicates Boheme could become a good torch singer, but Cole Porter’s subtly raunchy “Let’s Do It” falls short. She tries to sound low and husky, but it merely sounds affected and plays up her youth and inexperience. Someone should have told her that her pouty cue to saxophonist Tom Scott (“Would you play it, Tom?”) makes her sound like a bad lounge singer, a style she should avoid at all costs.

The inclusion of a Tracy Chapman cover and the original “Someone in Love” indicates Boheme might be hedging her bets, believing a crossover into the singer-songwriter camp might work if the jazz gig doesn’t pan out. But with stronger material, and perhaps fewer arrangements for strings, Boheme could become a jazz vocalist with her own style. In the meantime, she might want to take the advice of her song that ironically concludes the album: “Don’t Be Something You Ain’t.”

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