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Rising Stars [Issue #5]
Leona Naess:
By Dean Truitt
Leona Naess (CD Geffen)


Life's agonizing defeats can often yield spectacular artistic triumphs. For several years, music critics and devout fans alike hailed Leona Naess as one of this generation's most promising artists; however, it appeared that such tremendous promise was destined to fall short of its blistering potential.

After releasing the two rough diamonds: Comatised and I Tried To Rock You But You Would Only Roll to minimal commercial avail, the artist was left harboring potentially crippling disappointment and frustration. After the lackluster results of her first two outings, the former stepdaughter of R&B legend Diana Ross came to the conclusion that she must appeal to the most important member of her audience: herself. The 28-year-old reveals, "I just kind of did what I wanted and I think that it just seemed like the only option. I always felt misunderstood with the other records." From her vantage point, the primary shortcoming was that the production of her previous albums inevitably tarnished the songs themselves. She laments, "The production kind of overrided the music. People would not be getting it because they're listening . . . to the beat or they're listening to the backward guitar." For her latest release, the soulful siren wisely chose to collaborate with masterful producer Ethan Johns (Counting Crows, Ryan Adams). In doing so, the New York resident avoided another tragic miscue. Gone were all the proverbial bells and whistles. Moreover, the most spectacular instrument shimmered en regalia: Naess' haunting, throaty voice. In stripping away the chaff and simply keeping only the essential ingredients, the songs can be savored in their raw, delicate glory. Before the endeavor commenced, she recognized, "I got a little older and wanted to make records like they made them in the past, very honest and no computers." Fortunately, the NYU graduate's instincts proved to be a wonderful guide for the project. It's not surprising that she decided to simply title the album Leona Naess because the record has finally expressed what she genuinely believes in the manner she feels most comfortable. She proudly beams, "If I make a record only about the words and the melodies...if people don't like it then they just don't like what I'm doing and then I can deal with that." Without exaggerating, she has crafted an undeniable masterpiece. Carrying on the tradition of confessional pop landmarks such as Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks and Joni Mitchell's Blue, Leona Naess plays like a sonic diary which crosses heartbreaking terrain into hopeful horizons. The opening track "Calling" sways like a hymn of heartache and hope. The entire album ripples and echoes with tingling raw emotion and quiet defiance. As the album's cover photograph indicates, the singer's career may finally be coming up roses. In the week of her album's release, Naess appeared on both The Tonight Show and The Late Late Show. Critical response has been virtually unanimous in extolling its brilliance. The morals of the story are that less is more and the third time truly is a charm.


Leona Naess
Geffen

Leona Naess Leona Naess


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