The Raleigh singer Jeanne Jolly has a powerful and versatile voice, as capable of flying high for a soulful vibrato as it is dipping low for soft country ballads. It’s earned her spots on stages with symphonies and on stages and in studios with the trumpeter Chris Botti. She’s lent it to the R&B sophisticates The Foreign Exchange and has collaborated with roots music machine Phil Cook. She’s steadily developed a solo catalog, too, culminating in the new eight-track album, A Place to Run.
But A Place to Run doesn’t run so much as it ambles on course, never daring to pick up too much speed or stray too deep into the unknown. Jolly languishes in the adult-contemporary department, making moderate folk-rock with occasional inflections of blues and soul. All her outsider experiences barely make a dent on A Place to Run‘s smooth surface. Her songs touch on familiar singer-songwriter tropesCalifornia, dreaming, hope, escapebut rarely offer a distinct spin on any of them. Yes, she’s got a powerful singing voice; her songwriting voice, however, remains to be determined.
On “Good Man,” Jolly praises the man in her life who loves his parents and turns her rain into sunshine. The idea is that he’s something special, but she offers few grounding details, the real-life stuff that makes love songs like this more than cliches. You have to accept the fact that this person is an especially good man just because Jollyher voice dressed in finerysays so.