All Music Guide – “Wasserman demonstrates her ability to get inside a song…” “Solid Ground showcases her skills as a pop, jazz and rock vocalist.”

Review    by William Ruhlmann

The average singer, on her debut album, does not get Lou Reed and Vernon Reid to play guitars, Christian McBride to play bass, and Stephen Perkins (of Jane’s Addiction) to play drums (not all on the same track), nor does she get to duet with Aaron Neville on a song for which she has set his lyrics. And she doesn’t get to collaborate extensively with the noted bassist Rob Wasserman, either. But then, the average singer is not Sara Wasserman, Rob Wasserman’s daughter, who has used her family connection to make other connections. This isn’t simple nepotism, however. Rob Wasserman himself has made a career out of putting together guest-star-filled albums such as his Duets and Trios collections, so the star power that fuels Solid Ground constitutes a family tradition. And once one actually listens to the resulting music, the names don’t make that much difference. McBride’s bass playing is noticeable, particularly in “Little Bird (Reprise)” (a song written by Rob Wasserman and Jules Shear), on which he is the sole instrumentalist. Otherwise, however, only Neville, with his unmistakable high tenor, takes the spotlight away from the featured artist. Happily, Sara Wasserman proves worthy of all the attention, writing a series of quality jazz/blues songs and singing them in a slightly throaty contralto that is full of feeling. She is at her best when she is going for a blues feel, as on “Little Bird,” or a blue-eyed soul impression, such as on the cover of Hall & Oates’ “Sara Smile.” Less impressive is a tendency to wander into Christina Aguilera/Beyoncé territory, as on “Somehow Forever.” But it must be hard for any singer who grew up in the 1980s and ’90s not to have suffered even a little bit from the influence of the inane Whitney Houston sound-effects-for-their-own-sake school of over-singing. Most of the time, however, Wasserman recalls Bonnie Raitt and Raitt’s antecedents instead of Houston and her little sisters, making this a debut that easily transcends being just the sum of its guest shots.

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