Black Music Matters Festival

Jamie O'Neal

Shiver – 2000 (Mercury)

Reviewed by Kevin Oliver

CDs by Jamie O'Neal

Australian-born and a veteran of the road with her family's band The Murphys, Jamie O'Neal has also done time singing backup for Kylie Minogue and writting songs for Chely Wright, Clay Davidson and Tammy Cochran. Her own voice has taken a while to be heard, but with this debut CD, her sultry, soulful vocals are now front and center.

Dolly Parton's '70's era pop-country is a natural reference to O'Neal's music, and she even reveals a bit of a Dolly-esque warble on songs like "Frantic." Another archetypal country music female, Reba McEntire, comes to mind with such 'victim of love' songs as "To Be With You," and, "Where We Belong." More often than not, though, producer Keith Stegall and the band of Nashville studio regulars stick to a safe, formulaic sound designed for that spot on the playlist between Faith Hill and Joe Dee Messina. When she holds back and lets the jazzier side of her voice come out, as on, "There Is No Arizona," the results show more originality and promise, two qualities lacking in too many new artists.