The American vocalist marks her French success with a wholly Gallic LP.
Kathryn Shackleton 2010
Fortified by an arts award from the French government and her success across the English Channel with 2007 collection Breakfast on the Morning Tram, American vocalist Stacey Kent goes the whole hog and sings her follow-up album completely in French.
Raconte-Moi… is an intensely personal collection of chansons françaises dedicated to Kent’s grandfather. He fled from Russia to the US and enjoyed a spell in Paris en route, passing on to her his love of the French language.
La Vénus du Mélo is the foot-tapper here and at times Kent glides between notes with a Melody Gardot-like edge. Her trademark intimate and breathy vocals, perfect diction and spot-on timing suffuse the album and Les Eaux de Mars is another stand-out track. The Jobim bossa nova has French lyrics by Georges Moustaki and builds gently, layering soprano sax on piano on guitar.
Kent’s voice is as distinctive as Ella’s, and its ingénue quality suits these understated pieces. Of particular recommendation are Jardin d’Hiver, by young singer Keren Ann, and Mi Amor, a quietly emotional tango.
With voice the focus on every track, the delicacy and sophistication of the rhythm section could go unnoticed. John Parricelli lends some beautiful guitar lines on Les Eaux de Mars and the title-track. Graham Harvey’s piano, Jeremy Brown’s bass and Matt Skelton’s drums are a finely controlled backdrop to the main act, but these top jazz musicians are sadly underused. Barring Harvey’s short stretch-out on Sait-on Jamais? there isn’t really any improvisation.
No doubt it was a personal challenge to sing a whole album in French, and the result is as relaxing as a massage. Kent is a great craftswoman, but if she moved further out of her comfort zone she could be a great artist too. A sabbatical with Polar Bear might do the trick.