Ashley Lennon Thomas,
Sparkle Plenty
(independent, 2008)

Ashley Lennon Thomas can sing, there's no doubting that. When she wraps her warm, rich contralto around a song, it stays wrapped. In fact, it's so thoroughly covered that it'll stay comfortable right through the winter.

Thomas's brand of blue-eyed soul, languorous and subtle, is, for much of the album, a pleasure to listen to. She has the lingering aroma of Memphis in the 1970s in her songs, with a hint of Stax-Volt in her vocal and instrumental arrangements.

When Sparkle Plenty is good, it is very good, but not all of the disc is up to the standards set by the best of it. It's as though someone said, "Well, we're out of first-rate material but we've got the studio booked, so let's keep going and see what happens." What happened is that the promise of the first part of the album does not pay off in the second part. As you get near the end, the material weakens as Thomas and her producers lose the focus of the set.

Not to say that this is a bad album. It isn't, by any means, but it also isn't the triumph a little more good material could have made it.

review by
Michael Scott Cain

7 November 2009

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