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Nora Jane Struthers

Champion – 2017 (Blue Pig Music)

Reviewed by Lee Zimmerman

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CDs by Nora Jane Struthers

Four albums on, Nora Jane Struthers continues to assert herself as one of Americana's most important female voices at the forefront of the current crop of prominent practitioners. It's not because Struthers insists on tugging at its parameters or redefining the genre, but rather because she adheres to it so gracefully. Never mind the fact that she began her career singing alongside her father, an obvious indication that indeed she was born to make this music. It's her confidence and credence within the format that allows her to stand out so distinctly, adding a unique perspective and personal touch that allow these songs to draw the attention they so decidedly deserve.

Not surprisingly then the excellent "Champion" commands attention even at the outset. Struthers' measured delivery reflects her absolute assurance and command of the material, with songs that come across with the unhurried comfort and familiarity of friends who share a like-minded connection. The ease and affinity with which "Each Season," "Belief," "Let's Get the Day Started" and the title track, among many others, draw the listener in, leaving no barriers unturned when it comes to assuring a ready rapport. Indeed, there's not a single song here that doesn't reflect her prowess as both a singer and band leader. That said, credit her collaborators in her backing band The Party Line for bringing it all to fruition so effectively and convincingly. A better match would be hard to imagine.

Even the lure of instant affinity is no assurance of success, and in that regard there's no guarantee that "Champion" will champion Struthers' cause and provide her that big breakthrough. That said, only a fool would dare bet against her.