While the world is brimming with singers of talent and confidence, it’s the rare vocalist who can actually get under our skins and stir our emotions. Eden Atwood is such a singer. Yes, she has a fine voice and skills to spare. But her work transcends simple competence with its honesty, sensitivity and conviction. In short, she speaks to us. Where does such ability come from? In literature, it is said there are great writers and then there are great writers with great experience. In jazz, this experience is traditionally called “paying dues.” But it takes more than experience to become the kind of artist who can touch our souls. It takes consideration of that experience, the long, hard thought of where one’s been and where one’s going, the kind of personal examination that the Greek philosophers suggested was necessary to make life worth living. In current parlance, self-realization. I remember a conversation with Eden on a blustery afternoon in her beloved Montana in which she spoke in depth about the details of her life, her hopes and fears, her triumphs and disappointments. She had just left New York City and was looking to her future. I couldn’t help but be impressed with her frankness. At the same time, I felt the vulnerability that such frankness implies. It struck me then that these were the same feelings she generates as she performs.