Artist: Kimberly Haynes
Album: Awaken Me

Awaken MeOn her new album, Awaken Me, vocalist Kimberly Haynes paints musical portraits from a diverse palate of influences that include new age, folk, soft pop, world music, and more. Her expressive voice ranges from soft to soaring with thoughtful and inspiring lyrics that touch the heart and illuminate the spiritual quest. Subtitled: “Songs from the Heart of a Seeker,” the spectrum of her eclectic and enlightening vocal performances evokes both the tenderness of a mother’s touch and the ancient feminine power of a tribal priestess singing her truth for the betterment of the community.


For Kimberly, the connection between music and spirituality began at an early age. From the time she was old enough, she was featured as a singer in church choirs. As a young teenager, Kimberly began to study voice, guitar, and songwriting, and was later placed in her high school’s gifted music program. By the age of 17 she began studio singing and had been featured in television appearances and radio interviews within her Christian community. As time went on, Kimberly delved into the world of jazz and big band music as influenced by artists such as Doris Day, Billy Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald. By the time she was in her early twenties as she took part in a multitude of recording projects as well as performing in Japan, Denmark and a variety of Los Angeles nightclubs as well as attending the Musicians Institute in Hollywood to study jazz vocals, vocal improvisation and songwriting. At a point along the way, Kimberly began to give back by helping to develop the talents of up and coming singers as a vocal coach.


While these experiences had a tremendous influence and built a strong foundation, Kimberly’sBridge-toward-the-light life was also marked by many difficulties and hardships. In her words: “Having risen from my own ashes multiple times, it is my mission to carry music of the heart into the world. My life and my music are richer and deeper for the challenges I have overcome, and my songs are a reflection of my personal journey from brokenness to wholeness.” The above-mentioned connection between music and spirit is a thread that has been woven through Kimberly’s life and she later embarked on an intensive study of sacred music and healing practices from around the world, including Peruvian shamanism. Also, in 2004, she began an apprenticeship as a cantorial soloist and started leading the prayer services alongside the rabbi for a local synagogue, which she now continues to do once or twice a month. Kimberly shares, “It was here that I first learned what it means to be the one who raises their voice on behalf of the community, inviting the Divine into their midst.”



Kimberly and Vito Gregoli

Kimberly and Vito Gregoli

Which brings us to the latest spiritual and creative efforts of Kimberly Haynes, in the form of her new album entitled Awaken Me. While her beautiful voice is clearly the focal point of the album, it is impossible not to mention the role of co-producer David Vito Gregoli, whose own Om Land album, I recently had the pleasure of writing about, and which Kimberly was a guest on. Vito was deeply involved in all aspects of production and arranging the songs as well as performing on a vast array of instruments such as guitars (steel and nylon-string acoustic, electric, 6 and 12-string, and the South American charango), bass, mandolin, sitar, banjo, piano, electric piano, synthesizer, udu, drums, percussion, bells, Native American flute and other flutes, gopichand and kalimba. A number of other talented musicians also appear as special guest artists on the album, and will be discussed as we explore some of the individual songs.


So let’s delve into the music on the album with a quote from Kimberly: “The title of the album, Awaken Me, comes from the song of the same name and seemed appropriate because it is such an important starting point. Each of us has the daily opportunity to awaken to our personal destiny — to who we truly are and what we each have to give, and to the sacredness of both our individual and our collective journey. This song was born out of my yearning for clarity for the betterment of my own life and all those I touch. It is a universal need.” The track begins with a melodic chanting of Om by Kimberly accompanied by the earthy sound of Byron Metcalf on frame drum and percussion. As the song evolves it becomes more of an ensemble piece with David Vito Gregoli (Vito) on guitars, synth, and bell, and Aeb Byrne on hang drum. It’s heartfelt refrain about awakening, remembering, and listening make for a beautiful entrance into Kimberly’s inspirational music.


With 11 songs and a large cast of accompanists, I won’t go into detail on each track but will touch on what were for me, some of the highlights. On “The Dream” I liked the balance of the appropriately dreamy sections with ethereal background vocals by Aeone, another well-known new age vocalist, and the driving rhythmic sections with a gypsy flair, accented by the soulful violin playing of Jesus Florido. A bit of a pop feel characterizes a track called “Light of My Soul,” providing another kind of canvas for Kimberly to paint on with the colors of her inspired vocals. Joining her are award winning musicians Peter Kater on piano and Tina Malia on background vocals, as well as percussionists Christo Karam Pellani and Cooper Madison Lanier, and of course Vito on a wide variety of stringed instruments, synthesizers, and flutes. I found this song particularly moving, and it stayed in my mind for a while after hearing it.


I was glad that I had read Kimberly’s bio and personal notes, as discussed above, before I actually listened to the music so that when I did hear songs like “My Heart Knows the Way,” “Pathless Path,” and others, I was able to more deeply appreciate the life experience that shaped the lyrics. I really had the sense that Kimberly was not just being a wordsmith, but had truly lived the meaning of her compositions. As she shared: “Each song shares a unique story bornblue-pink-heart from a life of tremendous trials and blessed tribulations, all flowing from a heart expressing love of music and life. It’s a powerful thing to do this from a place of personal truth.”


A song entitled “The Jewel” is a ray of pure sunshine with its upbeat pop rhythm with a hint of R&B and world music. It’s a real “feel good” song that would make a great thing to listen to first thing in the morning to get your day going on the right track. A more mysterious vibe is heard on “Do I Dare,” that features the primal didjeridu sound of Stephen Kent, as well as Gareth Laffely on Native American flute, and other previously mentioned musicians. On this song, as well as some others, in addition to vocals, Kimberly plays percussion as well. The earthy groove continues in the quasi-reggae beat of the next track, “You’re The One That I Want/ Govinda Jaya.” However, a bit more understated is the song that follows, entitled “Come Come,” which has a laid back folky feel to it. I was pleased to see two musicians I’m familiar with on the track, Andy Mitran on accordion and Al Jewer on Native American flute. I’ve written about a number of their albums including their recent one, Transmigration. Also on this song are Joellen Lapidus on dulcimers, cellist Eddie Young, and Vito on nylon string guitar.



PROMO PIC RANDALL #1Among the things I’m impressed by with this album is its range. Not only in the wide variety of styles, influences, and instruments, but in the range of Kimberly’s voice. Whether it is soft and sweet like a lover’s words in your ear, or rocking it with power and passion, there is an authenticity in Kimberly’s singing that makes you feel that this is someone who has experienced the highs and lows of life and uses them all to deliver her songs with heart and soul. In her words: “My songs are my prayers. It is truly a privilege to carry those prayers into the world. It is my hope that they will be a blessing to all who hear them. So I raise my voice in song to awaken a place deep within myself and in others where we can collectively begin to remember our own sacred hearts, our sacred connection to Creation, and the sacredness in each other.” All in all, Awaken Me is a truly uplifting listening experience.



Click the link below to hear samples and/or purchase this album: