Heather Powell’s songwriting career began with her 2012 album Believe it to Life. With 2015’s A Haze of Grays and Blues, Powell add another 10 tracks to an already impressive résumé, showcasing again her crystal clear vocals and relentless optimism. Tomás Doncker has not only signed Powell through his production company, True Groove Records, he has also co-written and co-produced all of the album’s tracks. Doncker further displays faith in the singer by serving as the record’s lead guitarist.
The jazz/adult contemporary tracks that comprise A Haze of Grays and Blues, to be released February 24, cover emotions that suit her vocal range—from soulful yet uplifting explorations of the more painful sides of life to sweet, cheerful tracks celebrating the joys it has to offer. Powell’s vocals are backed up not only by Tomás Doncker on guitars, but also by Josh David and Kevin Jenkins on bass, Michael J. Faulkner on drums (and Mo Roberts on drums on “Distance”), Nick Rolfe and Manu Koch on keyboards, Alan Grubner on violin, cello, and viola, Mac Gollehon on trumpet and trombone, and Daniel Sadownick on percussion.
“Blue Light” and “Awaken” are the jazziest contributions to A Haze of Grays and Blues. Both are slow and moody with vocals that wrap and pull the listener in. “Awaken” also features a delightful layer of trumpets. “Wishing”, “Falling”, and “Distance” are gentle yet upbeat tracks that take an uplifting and optimistic view on sometimes heavy topics. “Falling” has a tinge of R&B to it, while the keyboards in “Distance” add a bit of magic to the track that seem to reflect the feeling one gets from gaining distance from painful events.
“Black and White Thinking” is a bit darker, but thankfully still strays from becoming morose or depressing. Yet again, the lighter side of the track makes the core message uplifting. Powell sings about the hope that makes us face each day bravely and getting through the bad, as there are always good things waiting for us. The important element to achieve this is to “get over” our “black and white thinking”. The album’s only duet, “Remember the Love”, features Kevin Jenkins, whose vocals meld and blend with Powell’s, weaving a tale of a love that went wrong despite its strong beginnings. Because the two remain focused on the great things that love brought them, the track is one of cozy reminiscing with a slight tinge of regret.
“Unexpected” and “Unstoppable” both reflect a singer that is seductive yet sweetly so. The vocals are delivered with crystal clarity, with a certain dash of smokiness. “Unexpected” is driven by gentle percussion, while “Unstoppable” is driven by the piano. Both are uplifting and cheerful at their core. One can easily imagine Powell smiling and winking her way through both.
The piano in “Unstoppable” makes it one of two tracks listeners might particularly want to see performed live. The second song would be the closing “See Me”, a powerful ballad made grandiose with the layer of strings and definitely the most melancholic of the album. Powell’s vocals were already impressive throughout A Haze of Grays and Blues; they are taken to another level in this song.
Powell’s effortless vocals carry this album. She easily navigates from soft whispers to a powerful high notes, bringing multiple facets to A Haze of Grays and Blues. The album is polished to a degree that lovers of smooth jazz and adult contemporary music will enjoy. More information about Powell is available on her official website. Videos of various live performances are available on her YouTube channel.
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