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Introspective Outpourings — JJ Heller in concert

Be sure to come early to the Ross Aragon Community Center this Sunday, Feb. 12, at 6 p.m., for an evening of music with talented singer/songwriter JJ Heller.

Doors will open at 5 p.m. The concert is free to the public and a love offering will be taken to defray costs. Singer/songwriter duo Denise Chaney and Jason Rose will add a zest of musical flavor to the evening with their own original songs as opening musicians for the concert.

When her dream of playing college basketball didn’t pan out, JJ Heller picked up a guitar and started writing music. Good thing! We have no clue if she could hit a 15-foot jump shot, but she sure can nail a song or two … or 10, as she has in each of her albums. Sweet (but not saccharine), folksy pop flows, as Heller, often co-writing with husband Dave, sings of faith, hope and love — including the bond with 2-year-old daughter Lucy.

“I could never count all the ways that you change me, Baby/Every day the sky is a deeper shade of blue” (“Baby”).

On “Kingdom Come,” she sings “All sorrows and sighs/Will fade away into the night/And all will be made new.”

JJ Heller’s music is sweet, gentle folk-pop reminiscent of Sarah Sarah McLachlan, Feist, Jill Phillips, Kendall Payne and early Jewel, plus shades of Caedmon’s Call, Susan Ashton and Sara Groves

JJ Heller continues to establish herself a capable singer/songwriter in the Christian folk scene. A question: Why is it that the folk genre continually seems to have the wittiest, smartest songwriting in Christian music? Does the acoustic sound better lend itself to introspective outpourings? Or is it more that folk music isn’t bound by the marketing conventions of radio friendly pop music? Whatever the reason, intelligently written folk remains consistent in Christian music, particularly among a Nashville-based community of talented artists who excel at articulating their faith through song. And now they have one more.

JJ Heller debuted in 2004 and gained attention with the well-received “Only Love Remains” in 2006. Her third full-length effort, “The Pretty & the Plain,” was recorded with a who’s who of musicians from the Nashville folk scene: producer Mitch Dane (Bebo Norman), bassist Aaron Sands (Jars of Clay), guitarist Andrew Osenga (Caedmon’s Call), and keyboardist Ben Shive (Andrew Peterson), not to mention JJ’s husband, David, on acoustic guitar and backing vocals.

Heller’s songwriting covers a broad range of subjects, from the playful, “Grow” with its cloud metaphor for pouring out our emotions, to the gentle Jewel-styled ballad about the “Little Things” we do that change the world for good. The title track is a thoughtfully-written reminder that Christ came for all of us; written from Mary Magdalene’s perspective. “You Tell Me So” takes inspiration from the familiar children’s hymn to extol Jesus’ love for us, while “Have Mercy on Me” serves as an intimate, prayerful confession. Heller also celebrates the love in her marriage with the wedding night dance of “Tonight” and the tender “Where I Land.”

JJ Heller’s latest offering is an acoustic project titled “Deeper.” The CD “Deeper” was initially slated to be released during Thanksgiving 2009, but the track, “Your Hands,” found a life of its own on radio after showing up on the hit show “So You Think You Can Dance?,” and the difficult decision was made to delay the release until a later point.

Several of the songs from “Deeper” were re-tracked in a more polished style and became a part of JJ’s acclaimed CD, “When I’m With You,” which appeared on many Best of 2010 lists, including the song “What Love Really Means” topping Amazon.com’s list of Best Christian Songs of 2010.

“Deeper” was released in October 2011 with five acoustic versions of songs from “When I’m With You,” four unreleased tracks from the original 2009 recording sessions, and three brand-new songs that were recorded in May of this year.

This album combines soft vocals and introspective lyrics as JJ takes a look at the simple moments of every day life.

“Deeper is a really special and intimate project,” Heller says.

“As the title implies, it’s a record about the extremes of life’s emotions and experiences. I share deeply personal songs exploring the tragedies in my life and in the lives of friends, vulnerable and honest love songs, and a few songs of encouragement.

“It’s really a picture of this season of my life.”

JJ had her second baby girl, Nora, in September of 2011, and the pregnancy inspired the track “I Get To Be The One,” a song in which she reflects on the love of an expectant mother for her unborn child.

The album begins with a beautiful picture of the love of an expectant mother for her unborn child called “I Get To Be The One.”

“Since the title track of “When I’m With You’ was written to my daughter Lucy, I wanted to make sure that Nora had a song too!” says JJ.

The album was produced, mixed and engineered by Mitch Dane, while her husband, David Heller, provides some of the backing vocals. 2012 finds JJ and her husband on the road touring in support of “Deeper.” We’re excited that one of those roads led to Pagosa Springs.

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