Fans of television’s Ally McBeal will remember Vonda Shepard as the vivacious blonde songstress in the piano bar, usually playing some timeless tearjerker (“I Only Want to Be With You,” “Vincent”) or a suitably poignant original (“Maryland,” “Baby, Don’t You Break My Heart Slow”) on occasion. Her smoky, soulful voice instilled in the hit show’s often-quirky storylines an empathetic perspective while essentially functioning as the musical conscience of Calista Flockhart’s romantically hopeful yet impressionable title character.
Shepard had achieved some prior success—in 1987 she reached the Top 10 with “Can’t We Try,” a duet with Canadian singer/songwriter Dan Hill—but the visibility afforded her week after week thanks to Ally was incalculable. And, in return, she flat-out made a great show even better.
Shepard likewise shines on Solo, which finds her (and her alone, hence the title) reprising some of her most familiar and compelling performances. A sprawling rendition of the Duprees classic “You Belong to Me” is an instant highlight. However, it’s on her own material—particularly “I Know Better” and “Soothe Me,” both achingly sensuous and intoxicating moments—where Shepard’s vocal depth and range are best revealed and ultimately most affecting.
Altogether, Solo is superb.