Online since August 2002

A superb voice

Reviewed April 2010

Here's to Change
Here's to Change
By Alyssa Jacey

Self-released: 2010

To hear sound clips or learn more about this release, Turbula recommends viewing its Amazon.com entry.

Owner of one of the richest voices in San Diego's singer-songwriter community, Alyssa Jacey has seemed to be on the verge of breaking through for a few years now. Few singers are more active as performers on the local scene, fewer yet work harder at spreading the word about their music than does the seemingly tireless Jacey.

What has held her back?

In large part, the lack of a real signature song, a potential hit.

Jacey's latest CD, "Here's to Change," is her fourth. It finds her ever more comfortable as singer, while also turning out some of her most evocative lyrics.

And yet, there isn't really a melody that will stick in your head – a reality that the smoothest vocal delivery, smartest arrangements and most polished production (all of which "Here's to Change" has in spades) can't change.

Imagine those magnificent pipes of hers wrapped around a classic bit of pop songcraft, the kind of song you can't stop humming. Imagine that deep, throaty voice vamping on a classic theme.

What you would have would be her cover of "Come Together," the Beatles song she included on a special edition of this CD she was selling at her local shows (and is not included on the retail version). Adhering to the basic thrust of the original arrangement, she also breathes a huge swath of jazz vocalese into it, along with some low-in-the-belly fire. Goose bumps.

The talents that make someone a gifted singer are not necessarily the same talents that give rise to memorable melodies. And, in Jacey's defense, she's a singer who happens to live in an age when it is very much expected that singers will write their own material. Blame James Taylor and Jason Mraz, for those very rare exceptions have somehow managed to become the de facto rule.

Noted folk singer Tracy Grammer – one of the few singers of the current generation who has created a career out of singing other people's songs – pointed out during a recent interview with this reviewer that too many singers are caught up in the whole singer-songwriter ideal, as if it's the only ideal in the world of pop music: "I'm not sure others get the idea that it's okay to sing songs from other people."

It's not like Jacey is the only singer in this situation – San Diego County alone has at least a handful of world-class singers who have this idea stuck in their head that their art is only legitimate if they write their own songs: only they're not as good at composing as they are at singing.

There should be no shame at being very good at one thing – most of us (present company very much included) will never have even that.

Jacey is talented enough a singer, with a distinctive enough style that she could carve out her own niche as interpreter. Not that she should just become a Top 40 covers act – one Fabulous Mar-Dels is more than enough for the region.

Nor is it to say she should stop writing her own songs, or stop performing them. "Dear Life" is strong enough to be included in any set she ever chooses to sing. And her 2008 Christmas single, "My Only Wish This Christmas," was as charming a love song as you'll ever hear.

But including songs from other writers could well help her develop even more as a singer, particularly if these are new songs that she's introducing to the world.

Jacey is so gifted as a singer that she owes it to herself, her fans and her craft to find the very best songs she can – no matter who writes them.

Review by Jim Trageser. Jim is a writer and editor living in Escondido, Calif., and was a contributor to the "Grove Press Guide to Blues on CD" (1993) and "The Routledge Encyclopedia of the Blues" (2005).

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