Oregon’s singer-songwriter joins the top ranks of soul chanteuses.
Having produced Aretha, Diana, Barbra and Whitney, drummer Narada Michael Walden is a specialist in handling a diva’s voice and giving it a beat, so when he took Shaeny Johnson under his wing a top-notch result was guaranteed. The Grammy-winning veteran played a safe game, though, as Shae, as she’s known now, has a lot of experience singing with the group of JEFFERSON STARSHIP’s Craig Chaquico and gracing the stage for productions such as “Grease” and “The Sound Of Music.” Yet Walden not only supplied his new protégé with backing tracks but also co-wrote this debut album with her which, as one may expect, comes high on grooves and full of soul.
The rhythm and uplift meld alchemically in opener “Shooting Star” that’s brazenly anthemic, but as far as self-glorification goes “Wanna Be By Your Side (Forever)” marries a gospel thrust to the roaring sensuality. It reaches its silky, if wuthering, peak in “I Won’t Let You Go And Break My Heart” and the scintillating “I’ll Be There” – and although it’s ballads where Shae revels and reveals all the beauty of her voice, the heavy, orchestral insistence of “Heat Of The Moment” can move mountains. Much lighter, the title track takes it to the dancefloor and shakes the repetition until you’re prompted to answer affirmatively, so when the six-minute closer “Have Faith” sends its Eastern undercurrent against the self-doubt drift there’s no denial Shae’s magic is here to stay.