Pasadena Weekly


Soul singer
Kimberlee adds a touch of Chaka and Aretha to her soul-driven sound.


Pop music's recent trend toward little-girl sounds has inspired a new wave of midriff-flaunting cutie pies, but the stage wings are crowded with plenty of what one might call "passion singers" -- women far more inclined to lustily wail and roar than coyly whimper.

One such up-and-coming performer is Kimberlee, whose developing career prompted her to relocate to L.A. three months ago with her supportive hubby from their beloved hometown of San Francisco.

Soft-spoken, even winsome in conversation, Kimberlee at the mic sounds more like a blues mama's godchild sanctified in the Church of the Holy Groove. At least one music critic has compared her to Phoebe Snow -- and the comparison isn't inappropriate, considering the similarities in tone and vowel-rolling between the two women -- but more telling is Kimberlee's own list of avowed influences.

She cites the throaty, from-the-gut power of passion singers such as Janis Joplin, Koko Taylor, Etta James, Toni Childs, Wynonna, Melissa Etheridge, Bonnie Raitt, Ann and Nancy Wilson, and especially Aretha Franklin and Chaka Khan ("Nothing's hindering them, and I love that").

"I don't like wimpy singing," Kimberlee says with a laugh. "I mean, I appreciate message music, and I appreciate sometimes dynamically you want to be more reserved, but that's much different than not being able to belt when you want to."

Her CD, "Learning How to Love" -- a promising showcase for her ability to belt as well as caress her hopeful lyrics -- presents five songs as notable for their inspiring message as their rocking rhythms.

"I definitely have a spiritual ring to my lyrics," she acknowledges, "whether it's talkin' about everyday life situations and relationships, but knowing that without forgiveness, y'know, it just doesn't work."

Citing Creed, Sarah McLachlan and Jewel in a list of mainstream artists whose lyrics are secular yet spiritual, Kimberlee says her own music draws from spiritual principles and "the Golden Rule."

"'So it's cool," she said. "People are definitely open to it. And I find, a lot of times, in my live performances -- especially since I've been touring [bookstores] -- you get a wide variety of age groups, from kids to middle-age, teenagers and elderly people, and it seems like everybody across the demographics is responsive to the message. Stylistically they're more open too, because the message is the meaning -- whether people are conscious of it or not."

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