dinsdag 11 oktober 2016

Country Songs. Karen Jonas

Somewhere in spring Karen Jonas announced her new album. Something to really look forward to. And then there was a mysterious Tweet about tectonic plates shifting and all quiet on the record front. Not on the touring though. Karen with her partner in crime Tim Bray are all over the place playing. The waiting has ended, Country Songs is here!

In 2014 I wrote on the title song of her debut album 'Oklahoma Lottery' "that it is so good it deserves a statue". That leaves me with a problem. How to find another measure that does right to Country Songs? I could just state: most probably the best roots record of 2016 and one of the best all over. When all is said and done that is the only conclusion after listening to Country Songs a few times.

There is something that Karen Jonas' voice does to me. That happened for the first time with The Parlor Soldiers' only album and now solo. I just love her voice. It can go from harsh and punishing all the way to totally seductive and erotic. There's so much in this voice that at times I'm forgetting I'm listening to a real country song. No, I'm not a fan of most things country. And here I find myself lauding an album with just that title.

The first song I'd like to focus on is 'The Garden'. This soft song is the brushed skins sort of a song, with Karen Jonas singing slow, with long held notes. A guitar twanging away as if The Shadows never went out of fashion. The short eruptions of the band signalling a storm ahead. The eruption comes in the form of a blistering guitar solo that could have been part of any classic rock outfit. From country ballad to hardrock and back. In the meanwhile the band hardly changes its playing. Extremely fascinating how this works. And then a piano chord kicks the guitar back into its lair. As a clear blue sky after a storm. If anything 'The Garden' shows how good Karen Jonas has become and what a unique voice she has found for herself. Not held back by conventions, all herself.

'Ophelia' may sound more traditional, but Tim Gray is showing how good he can make his fingers fly over the fretboard. The rockabilly country song is the sort of song that makes listening to Country Songs so much fun. It may have been done before, but the love of the genre speaks volumes in the performance.

'I've got a wandering heart, but you have wandering feet". And here I am not being bothered by any wander nor wonder, just under Karen Jonas' spell. That voice that is mixed right up front. This is her record alright. No matter how many interesting things happen behind her, she's in control of it all. Because that is just the secret of this record to me. Many different things go on on Country Songs. From the 100% country in 'Country Songs' to the slurred balladry of 'Why Don't You Stay' and all in between and beyond. This is Karen Jonas in all her guises. The mistress of country (songs). It just doesn't come better.

And now I have to come back that statue, remember? What's next? I guess a pantheon. Karen Jonas again proves that she has a unique talent. There are a few interesting new female singer-songwriters that have found their place into this blog recently. Not one of them is better than Karen Jonas though. Country Songs is simply one of the best records of this decade, country songs and all.


You can listen to and buy Country songs here:


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