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Christian Music - Reviews, News, Interviews

Jill Paquette

  • reviewed by Russ Breimeier Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2003 1 Jul
Jill Paquette
Sounds like … the thoughtful folk pop of Jewel and Jennifer Knapp, with a little bit of Sara Groves, Ginny Owens, and Sarah McLachlanAt a Glance … sure to be one of the year's breakthrough artists, Jill's talents as a songwriter and musician are strongly evident throughout this dynamite debut

Only a handful of artists truly pioneer musical styles and trends. Most aren't pioneers, but rather artists influenced by them. Obviously there are some who adapt music more uniquely than others. Skilled artists and songwriters will add their own artistic imprint by imparting some of themselves into their craft, thus becoming their own artist and sometimes even improving upon greatness.

Twenty-three-year-old Jill Paquette is essentially a folk artist, and some would be quick to respond that the music industry doesn't need another mere folk artist. The fact that she's also a Christian songwriter only makes her slightly more unique in the rapidly growing genre. What does set this new artist apart, however, is talent. Not that there's any lack of it on the part of her contemporaries, but Jill demonstrates plenty of it on her self-titled debut.

Jill grew up in a very musical family in the small town of Houston … British Columbia, Canada, that is. She first played piano at the age of three, soon after beginning classical lessons that would extend into her adolescence. Inspired by her father and her older brother, Jill also developed a love for the acoustic guitar over the years. Surrounded by music, she naturally developed a love for sharing her heart through singing and songwriting. But it wasn't until her freshman year at Alberta's Prairie Bible College, when her friends prompted her on the spot to debut her talents at the local coffeehouse, that she finally sang before an audience. A single song on a borrowed guitar was enough to wow them, leading to an opportunity to play in the worship band of her classmate, Matt Brouwer.

The rest is history—playing a prominent role on Matt's own solo debut (2001's Imagerical), performing her own solo concerts, and eventually recording her own demo before signing with Reunion Records—all while finishing her collegiate studies. As a folk/pop artist, Jill doesn't expand the genre into new territory, but she does manage to write and perform it really well, combining the best traits of many other great contemporary artists. Her intimate folk-pop stylings draw obvious comparisons to Jewel and Jennifer Knapp, but she simultaneously displays hints of roots rock edge (Sheryl Crow, Jennifer Knapp), thought-provoking honesty (Sara Groves, Ginny Owens), and soaring melodies (Sarah McLachlan, Nichole Nordeman).

Like her own multi-ethnic background (French-Canadian, northern European, and Native American), these elements combine to form a beautiful tapestry unique to Jill as an artist. Her debut album expresses the struggles common to every Christian's faith walk: obedience and insubordination, surrender and rebellion, faith and doubt. The opening track, "Come to Me," blends acoustic pop with programmed sounds for a rather bold song about God's unfailing comfort, written from his perspective: "Once in a while is not enough to show to Me what you call love/Don't waste My time/Words aren't all I want." Similarly, "One of These Days" is a thoughtful folk-pop meditation about our slow understanding and appreciation of God's goodness: "One of these days it will be easier to mean what I say/If I remember each and every day that this world is not my home and I never walk alone/And before time began my days were known by You."

The catchy and upbeat "Lift My Eyes" is more evocative of Nichole Nordeman, once again combining programmed pop effects with acoustic sounds in an expression of faith and hope that God will make sense out of "light lost to darkness … believing there's freedom in a life lived forgiven." Jill is backed by her friend Matt Brouwer (the two almost sound like Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith) on the pretty, ethereal ballad "Sometimes Yes, Sometimes No," a reminder that God has all the answers and we're not always privy to them: "I know it's You I'm hearing gently helping me to see/When everything I've prayed for is not Your will for me." One of the album's most beautiful and personal songs is "Katie-Lynn," a gentle and melancholic love letter in the folk tradition of Joni Mitchell or The Carpenters, written as a response to the crisis faced by Jill's pregnant teenage cousin.

There's not a bad track to be found on this album, but three of the standouts were produced by veteran musician Phil Madeira, who brings a little more rock edge and variety to Jill's sound. A plea for support in the walk of faith, "Not the Only One" has the same slow roots rock sound as Sheryl Crow and Jennifer Knapp. "Forget" is one of the first songs Jill wrote six years ago, which is amazing considering that she has enough to say about doubt and forgiveness to require multiple listens: "I don't want to cure my ignorance, I've needed it far too long … ignorance is no excuse for something I've known all along." Then there's my personal favorite, "Free (Take My Life)," a wonderful yet simple piano ballad of surrender, inspired by the music of Keith Green, but even more reminiscent of Sarah McLachlan and Ginny Owens at their best: "Take my life, make it clay/Shape this life in intricate ways/I want to be a child of faith, but what my heart wants most my body turns away."

Much like Sara Groves, Jill has a gift for expressing what most Christians think and feel with simplicity and poetry. Her expressive and inviting voice easily draws the listener in to her songs, almost all written by her (though her father helped on "Katie-Lynn" and a friend co-wrote "Sometimes Yes, Sometimes No" ). Combine those qualities with her impressive instrumental proficiency, and you've got an amazing young talent, sure to earn acclaim as one of the year's breakthrough artists in Christian music.