Exclaim!'s Best of 2014: Top 10 Soul & R&B Albums

10. Elizabeth Shepherd
The Signal

There is no shortage of jazz-oriented female vocalists out there, but few merit as much attention as Elizabeth Shepherd. While so many of her peers are content with cooing versions of canonical standards, Shepherd is made of sterner stuff. Her previous album, 2012's Rewind, showed she can also convince on covers, but The Signal, her fifth and strongest album, fully showcases all her strengths as a supple and subtle vocalist, an eloquent and socially conscious lyricist, fluent keyboardist and imaginative producer.

Shepherd has always worked with a wide musical palette, using soul, hip-hop and pop colours effectively. Here, she judiciously incorporates such instruments as ngoni, kalimba and steel pan on tunes that have a global lyrical perspective. "Lion's Den" tackles the issue of forced marriages in Africa; "B.T. Cotton" (an album highlight) that of the international destruction of our environment. It rather seems that Shepherd's immense talent has been better recognized abroad than at home, but this album deserves to change that. This is a Signal to be heeded. (Kerry Doole)