Jill Dawson,
First Time Around
(Pickle House, 2000)

I was honestly surprised at how good this was. First Time Around has something of an alternative pop-folk sound, but only loosely; Jill Dawson tends to play around in the different genres. The result is a remarkable blend of music, always brought together by Dawson's expressive singing talent.

Jill Dawson has an interesting story, different from most musicians. You see, Dawson was a corporate executive, caught up in the business world. Then she said "I've had it with this!" (or at least that's how I picture it). Maybe I'll just let you read Dawson's own words, as she puts it more gracefully: "I too was in the trenches of daily living, and lost sight of my true calling. LISTEN to your soul's desires, which is where life's treasures will reveal themselves to you." She was inspired by Oprah (ahh, is there anything Oprah can't do?) to go into music full time -- luckily for us all!

The first song, "Talk to Me," is a great introduction to the album, as it shows the range of Dawson's vocals as well as the range of music from dark, mellow verses and an upbeat, acoustic-driven chorus. The next song, "She," can either be a third-person love song, or a forlorn first-person song saying goodbye to a former lover who has found someone new. The acoustic guitar is very good in this one. "I Try and I Try" is more rock-oriented, and possibly has the best vocals out of any of the songs.

Next is "Least Likely," and this song reminds me very much of Jewel, and I mean that as a sincere compliment. There is some nice finger-picking on the guitar on this one. The lyrics are sort of a reverse yearbook statement: "Least likely to be a model, most likely to live alone." The following song, "Better Be (the Last Time)," has a "Talk to Me" feel to it, with energetic acoustic strumming and an electric guitar solo. "Perfect Time" has nice soft vocals and a simple, relaxing sound. The next one, "Build and Destroy," has very heartfelt vocals and a good message to guys who push their significant others around -- there's only so much a person can take. (I love the line, "Are you insane?! Or just not that smart?")

"Miss Perfect" has a different sound, more alternative than the others. It has some nice play on words, with variations such as "Miss Perfect, Miss-understood, Miss-taken" -- clever stuff. "In the Meantime" is a great song and is back to acoustic pop. The last song, "When I'm Gone," has good guitar and complements Jill's voice very nicely as it goes from soft to more vigorous -- her vocals grow more passionate as the song goes on.

This album is very good; if you're a fan of female vocalists, then Jill Dawson is someone you don't want to miss. Her next album is anxiously awaited!

[ by Patrick Derksen ]

Buy it from Amazon.com.