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Kimberly Cotton: Shine 

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On her debut release Shine, Kimberly Cotton is easy to label a folk songbird with an occasional Ani DiFranco edge. But her subjects — love, humanity, and Krishna consciousness — give her more in common with spiritual players like Ben Harper. All of this combines into a skeletal and emotive debut that at times comes close to parody. On "Freedom," Cotton's voice chirps through her vocal register vivaciously. The ukulele-led "A Place In My Heart" is a sweet island ballad. The excellent "Shine" is a polished piece of hushed pop rock (think Zeppelin's "Rain Song" in a Page-and-Plant configuration). But Cotton's musical spirit is hurt by her lyrical content. Seizing the day ("Freedom"), finding one's place in life ("Shine"), and understanding we are all one ("The Fish Song") come off as obvious retreads when cloaked in Cotton's spirituality ("Hare Krishna Song [Sri Isopanisad 15]"). We've seen and heard all of this before in countless folkies both good and bad. It's Cotton's energy, humility, and her own sense of self-discovery that save Shine, giving the album a kind of beauty that moves.

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