At first listen, it is inevitable that singer-songwriter Hope Waits’ self-titled, jazz-vocal debut CD will collect comparisons in both style and in voice to the likes of Billie Holiday and Bonnie Raitt. Nothing wrong with that- but listen again, for Waits has a cadence all her own. She soulfully sashays through both the classics and through original blues/jazz compositions confidently crooning the Gordy/Gordy/Carlo classic, "I’ll Be Satisfied," then segueing into a no-nonsense, throbbing vocal on producer/guitarist Peter Malick’s original, "You Crossed the Line," with a beat that closes eyes and rocks heads back and forth. Waits’ cover of Bob Dylan’s "Ring Them Bells" is especially compelling, lingering and simply beautifully sung.
But it’s the three tracks Waits co-wrote with Malick: "Fortune Teller," "The Ballad of Judith Anne," and "Ignatius," that give a hint of Waits’ essence; her dirt-poor Louisiana roots, her troubled parents and her early days as a singer in a Southern Baptist choir. These three tracks are earnest, breathy and rousing all at once. "Ignatius" is especially lovely; Waits’ voice is lilting, hinting of past pain, but her lyrics are resolute, demanding transformation; a perfect finale to a fine premier disc that puts Waits in a league all her own. Beautiful.