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Critically acclaimed R&B vocalist YahZarah returns with her long-awaited album “The Ballad of Purple Saint James,” May 4 on The Foreign Exchange Music. The 13-track set, overseen by Grammy-nominated production duo Nicolay and Phonte of The Foreign Exchange, represents her brightest, most complete work to date.

“It feels good to put our combined talents, efforts, and resources behind an artist that so deserves to be heard,” says Nicolay. “I couldn’t be more proud of The Ballad…”

YahZarah, a singer-songwriter who first made her mark as a background singer for Erykah Badu, has spent the past few years touring in support of her albums “Hear Me” (2001), A follow up LP, 2003’s “Blackstar,” was issued on the Three Keys label and reached #44 on Billboard’s Top R&B/Hip Hop Albums chart. Followed by 2008’s “The Prelude.” She worked on “The Ballad…” independently for a number of years before reaching out to Phonte (a longtime friend and fellow NC Central music student), and finally selecting +FE Music as her label home.

“YahZarah is the best singer I personally know, and for years it’s been my dream to produce her, “ says Phonte. “My goal was to take her vast repertoire of melodic influences, and combine it with material that allowed her voice to really shine.”

Clocking in at under an hour, “The Ballad…” showcases YahZarah’s rich soprano in a variety of musical settings. The new wave bounce of the first single “Why Dontcha Call Me No More” evokes Pat Benatar, while the throwback synth funk of “Change Your Mind” suggests Solar Records in its heyday. Highlighting YahZarah’s classical jazz training is “Shadow,” a stunning Zo!-produced piece that features her backed solely by piano and a haunting orchestral arrangement.

In addition to production by The Foreign Exchange, “The Ballad…” also includes contributions from TheRealFocus…(Marsha Ambrosius, Raphael Saddiq), Nate Smith (Michael Jackson), Steve McKie (Jill Scott, Bilal), and guest appearances from Jaspects, drummer Lil’ John Roberts, and singer Darien Brockington.

“Completing ‘The Ballad…’ with Phonte and Nicolay allowed me an opportunity to return back to the joy of making music and to create a project that is sexy, fearless, beautiful and sincere,” says YahZarah. “This work is a true reflection of me.”