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JILL PAQUETTE (2003)
Jill Paquette - Click to view! While some folks pursue the notion of fame and fortune as if their very lives depended on it, Jill Paquette seems to have fallen into her own musical career almost by accident. A French-Canadian with European and Native American roots, Paquette's unlikely heritage helped her to earn a scholarship to Prairie Bible College in Alberta. As it would happen, Paquette stopped in at a local coffee shop one afternoon while walking to basketball practice and, at the urging of friends, borrowed a guitar to play a self-penned composition. That performance netted the young singer/songwriter a slot in classmate Matt Brouwer's band, with whom she toured Alberta. As an offshoot of her growing exposure, Paquette put together a demo recording which eventually made its way to Nashville and led to her signing with Reunion Records in early 2003.

An imposingly talented multi-instrumentalist, Paquette's self-titled debut shows the British Columbia native taking on a fairly broad range of musical styles. The leadoff track, "Come to Me," combines the earthy folk-rock of Jennifer Knapp with Leigh Nash's wispy and ethereal vocals to fine effect. The equally impressive "Forget," on the other hand, harks back to Alanis Morissette's rapid-fire, near stream of consciousness lyrical delivery on last year's "Hands Clean" single. The delightful acoustic ballad "One of These Days" adheres closely in the soaring, atmospheric template laid out by Collective Soul's "The World I Know." And "Lift My Eyes" shows that, for all of her inherent folk and rock inclinations, Paquette is eminently capable of turning out the occasional pure pop gem.

In fairness, some of Paquette's attempts at making the grand lyrical statement can come across as slightly overreaching. And while the overly close observance of her influences certainly lends the album a certain measure of accessibility, it simultaneously renders a portion of it at least a little superfluous. That said, while the first outing falls just shy of establishing a unique identity for its creator, it nonetheless holds its own quite nicely against the debut efforts from any of the artists mentioned above. And, if ever there were a textbook formula for long-term success in music, a proficiency like Paquette's would have to figure pretty highly in the equation. As it stands, the first record is a pleasing, well-crafted collection of songs that hints at an extraordinarily gifted performer situated just on the cusp of parlaying her remarkable underlying potential into something truly distinctive.
- Bert Gangl
November 2003
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