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Imagine this: You grow up singing in church but you're forced to stop by your jealous mother. After her mother is murdered, Hope Waits—age 21—begins to explore the blues and starts singing again.

Eight years later, producer/guitarist Peter Malick (early Norah Jones, John Lee Hooker, Otis Spann, James Montgomery) surrounds Waits with such accomplished session men as drummer Butch Norton (the eels, Tracy Chapman, Lucinda Williams); horn players David Woodford and Lee Thornburg (Tower of Power, Bonnie Raitt) and keyboardist Phil Parlapiano (Lucinda, John Prine) and the results are strong, revealing debut. Because somewhere within the hints of Muldaur's slyness, Joan Osborne's gutsy lower register and Norah Jones' languid breathiness, Waits becomes not only her own woman, but her own artist.

Though she handles all the material well, I think her powers of interpretation are best served, and should seriously be explored on subsequent releases, on newer, less traditional songs. Tom Waits (no relation) ornery Get Behind The Mule and Dylan's resplendent Ring Them Bells both receive new life, no small feat considering the iconclasts who wrote them. Same goes for her taking on and conquering Drown In My Own Tears and standing alongside Lady Day on Yesterdays. Yesterdays also features a stroke of arranging genius from Malick who introduces a New Orleans funeral march mid song.

Malick's You Crossed The Line easily conjures images of Waits with Little Feat, while the Waits/Malick collaboration The Ballad of Judith Anne discovers not only pieces of her mother's troubled past, but a profound sense of self. Don't let this one pass you by. It could be the first recording in a very fruitful career.