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Layah Jane’s ‘Honey’ sounds sweet

Layah Jane‘s new CD, Honey could win an award for aptly-named album of the year.

With a voice that’s both sweet and rich, and a delicious, deep-groove approach, Toronto artist Layah Jane has finally found her sound on this CD, and honey’s the word for it.

Layah Jane sings lovingly – much like her peers Lori Cullen and Jory Nash, both notable for lush delivery.

Playfully pouting each sensuous syllable, she channels hints of Sade and Morcheeba in equal parts—all the while remaining thoroughly “roots” in instrumentation and approach. Like Brian MacMillan, (whose vocals and guitar are featured on the new album) Laya Jane has found that happy place where folk gets feeling, and she’s made herself right at home.

Along with partner/producer/accompanist Oliver Johnson, Layah Jane has been slowly establishing a distinctive  sound over the past few years. It emerged first on stage – the two of them locking in, with wide grins, to a trance-like dancing rhythm entirely their own, tastefully defined with minimalist acoustic guitars (Ollie’s a master of the understated lick) and adorned with Layah Jane’s ethereal, slightly dusky vocal.

Now they’ve laid that sound down on record, and Honey is a tasty treat that fairly oozes out of the speakers. Not many singers can channel a sensual vibe with a smiling voice, but it’s a specialty for Layah Jane, whose hippie-girl aesthetic fits her sound just fine. Honey is a groovy record, though not a funky one: think lazy love, not simmering sex.

Yet it’s a roots record, too, and what’s most distinctive about Layah Jane’s sound is the way it marries folk flavours with a soul feel—a credit both to her  musical instincts, and to her fruitful collaboration with Oliver, whose carefully considered production frames her sound without confining it.

Right off the top, the uptempo opening track “Dandelion” —with simple brush & snare backbeat, mandolin and banjo accents, and sunny, summer-day lyrics—places the material in folk territory.

But this is not sit-still-and-clap-politely folk music. The title track demands movement and is a true reflection of Layah Jane’s live act. She literally moves people; her songs and stage show are a constant  reminder that movement is as important as melody in the meaning of music.

If “Honey” is the album’s heart, “Find You Gone” is its spirit. At once langorous and loving, this down-tempo number is characteristic of Layah Jane at her best. Savouring every word, lingering over every note in fluid fashion, she’s the queen of the feel-good morning mood piece that’s all about taste and tone…

Just like Honey.

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