Halie Loren has a damn fine of a voice (smoky and sultry), but the real deal, which is proven on her new release Heart First, is her simplified reinterpretation of standards. Her rendition of “My One and Only Love” is a perfect example. The bass-keyboard accompaniment gives her the space to build her emotion into the tune. The most interesting part about this cover is how she gradually departs away from the original melody. By the time she comes back after the brief piano solo to close out the tune, she has completely rewritten the melody with her own. Now that’s fucking jazz.
Her version of “Feeling Good” starts out naked (unaccompanied) and instead of swinging it up she keeps it slow and adds a country twang to the classic tune. Love the way she scats with the harmonica near the end. Even when she swings on “Taking a Chance on Love,” she does so gently to make sure her soul is felt. The band, which does an excellent job of backing and displaying her vocals throughout the album, also understands the important of playing “heart first.”
The album showcases quite a bit of variety ranging from the blues on the title track to the Latin groove on “Sway (Quien Sera)” to the Sade’s smoothness on “Waiting in Vain,” and yet the album comes together as a whole without interruption. The laid-back simplicity makes Heart First a pure late-night pleasure.