A label closure, an unplanned performance at a house party, and an opportunity to revisit the studio each had a hand in sprinkling fairy dust on "Concrete Love," British singer/songwriter Julia Fordha

A label closure, an unplanned performance at a house party, and an opportunity to revisit the studio each had a hand in sprinkling fairy dust on "Concrete Love," British singer/songwriter Julia Fordham says of her new album, due June 18 via Vanguard.

It wasn't too long ago, though, that the magic seemed lost. Fordham -- a jazzy, soulful alto crooner -- was informed that her new label, Division One/Atlantic, had closed its doors last year just after the completion of the album, and she was left frustrated and emotionally drained.

Label shopping seemed a daunting task, though Fordham quickly caught the attention of Vanguard and signed a new deal. Vanguard's enthusiasm helped her to reinvest in "Concrete Love," but a friendship with neo-soul artist and seven-time Grammy Award nominee India.Arie really forged a rejuvenating path. One evening, India.Arie asked Fordham to sing "Concrete Love" at a casual gathering, and the performance opened up new doors for the project.

"My first thought was, 'I am so mesmerized by [India.Arie's] vocal talent and writing ability, the last thing I should do [is sing for her],'" Fordham recalls. "When I started singing the song, she sang this unbelievable thing all the way along with me. For two weeks, I was high as a kite just from this spontaneous experience."

Within a few months, Fordham asked India.Arie to help her record a new version of the track, which co-exists on the album with a Fordham-only version. "Redoing that song got me to come back to the record completely fresh," Fordham observes. "What had been incredibly disappointing soon turned into this unbelievable opportunity to re-sequence the record and redo the cover."

The reformulated album is a stirring, impassioned project that proves mesmerizing right from its opening track, "Love," on which Fordham winds her long-toned voice around alluring lyrics about a deep-felt love. Its enchanting quality continues throughout such tracks as "Italy," on which Fordham sings about the fantasy of moving to Italy with a lover. Other highlights include "Missing Man," which finds her opining about the negative side of love, and "Roadside Angel," a tribute to the late Minnie Riperton.

A nationwide club tour will conclude at the September Russian River Jazz Festival in Sonoma County, Calif. A special Web site contest offering a weekend trip to the festival will be coordinated.

Additional reporting by Margo Whitmire in Los Angeles.





Excerpted from the May 18, 2002, issue of Billboard. The full original text of the article is available in the Billboard.com members section.

For information on ordering a copy of the issue, click here.