Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

CD Review: Jenifer Jackson – The Outskirts of a Giant Town

Her best album, the first instant classic to be released this year. Over the course of her previous six albums, Jenifer Jackson has carved out a niche that is uniquely her own, even though she wears her influences on her sleeve (Bacharach, the Beatles, and Brazilian jazz/pop most notably). There’s an impressive clarity of vision that pervades her music – a courageous one. It’s what Camus meant by lucidite – it’s evident from the first song on this album that this is someone who is firing on all cylinders, every synapse wide awake and often painfully aware of what’s going on. Her melancholy, intricate, jazz-inflected psychedelia doesn’t shy away from despair or loneliness. But there’s always a light at the end of the tunnel: as strange as it may seem at first listen, this is ultimately a hopeful, optimistic album. Recorded live in the studio in order to evince as much interplay as possible out of her stellar backing band, the cd is a multistylistic tour de force, opening with Don’t Fade, old school 60s- 70s soul with fluttery organ fills and a soaring vocal. Like Sandy Denny, Jackson’s formidable prowess as a singer may not be physical – she’s not a big belter – but she packs an emotional wallop.

The album’s next cut Suddenly Unexpectedly, set to a fast shuffle beat with a bossa melody and layers of keys, is pure psychedelic tropicalia. The following track, Saturday, is something of an epic, and might be the most powerful song she’s ever recorded. It starts out somewhat Beatlesque, like a George song from the White Album. She pedals a chord through the verse, then all of a sudden the minor-key chorus descends: “It doesn’t matter anyway – I’ll keep it in my memory, that lovely Saturday.” Then the second verse kicks in, and everything picks up a notch. Jackson is also a painter, and as the images unwind, this tersely imagistic portrait of a young woman absolutely and heartbreakingly alone is absolutely, heartbreakingly beautiful.

After that, we get I Want to Start Something, more old-school soul with psychedelic flourishes, accordionist Sonny Barbato playing some delicious licks off Jackson’s equally tasty rhythm guitar. Her voice takes flight again at the end of the verse: “I’d like to find a place that feels like home…been so many places I don’t know why I can’t find it.”

The next cut, Dreamland, begins with a strangely captivating, tinkly piano intro into a wash of cymbals, then Jackson’s guitar kicks in all by itself. It’s Nashville gothic with all kinds of eerie, echoey effects from lead player Oren Bloedow’s guitar. It’s scarier than the fast, bluegrass-inflected version she used to play live, with a gorgeously sad lyric: “The way you loved me was a sin/I played a game I couldn’t win/Still I tried so hard to enter in/To the outer edge of Dreamland.”

Other standout tracks on the cd include the title track, gentle pastoral raga rock evocative of Meddle-era Pink Floyd, with an amazing piano break by Barbato; Anywhere I Would Journey, with its slow descending progression and watery lead guitar; The Change, an epic old-school soul groove-fest that would be perfectly at home on an Isaac Hayes live album from the early 70s; and For You, which with its tricky time changes and 60s garage rock feel wouldn’t be out of place on a Love Camp 7 record.

This album is generously multi-purpose: it’s a hell of a headphone album, it would make a great bedroom record, but it’s also a good thing to give to anyone you know who’s going off the deep end. Jackson’s gentle, soft voice and her wise, knowing lyrics offer a kind of solace that’s completely absent in indie rock, and the inspiring interplay of the band behind her can be mesmerizing. She deserves props for having the guts to reach down into the abyss to come up with some of the songs on this album, while never losing sight of the subtle, frequently surreal wit that imbues so many of them. It’s only April, but I think we’ve found the best album of 2007 and this is it. Cds are available at cdbaby.com at the link above, in better record stores and at shows.

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April 12, 2007 - Posted by | Music, music, concert, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

10 Comments »

  1. Just listened to a couple of tracks at her myspace page. Thanks for the rec … I hadn’t heard of her. Gonna have to head to my fav store and see if they carry her.

    Comment by Madman in the Marketplace | April 14, 2007 | Reply

  2. Cool, cool. That’s what we want to be here for.

    Comment by lucidculture | April 15, 2007 | Reply

  3. Just read this review, Lucid. I will look for her out here on the East End. Great review – I could almost hear the music (still soundless but will be able to try listening tomorrow on a friend’s computer).

    Comment by Sabrina Ballerina | April 20, 2007 | Reply

  4. SB – ’tis Delarue who wrote the review. I need to figure out how to get author tags on here. Anyhow Jenifer Jackson is definitely worth looking out for.

    Comment by lucidculture | April 21, 2007 | Reply

  5. Thanks, Lucid, wasn’t sure who wrote the review but it is excellently written, imo.

    Comment by Sabrina Ballerina | April 21, 2007 | Reply

  6. Lucid! You are a Tastey Maker, too. Just checked OUTSKIRTS (got it from CDBABY.COM)….so tastey!

    thanks.

    Comment by tasteymaker | August 28, 2007 | Reply

  7. […] heart, Beatlephile and terrific guitarist adept at pretty much any style she wants to play. See our reviews page for a look at her amazing new one The Outskirts of a Giant […]

    Pingback by NYC Live Music Calendar 8/29-9/9/07 « Lucid Culture | August 28, 2007 | Reply

  8. […] her latest cd The Outskirts of a Giant Town came out last spring, we said it was the best album to come out so far in 2007 and that claim still […]

    Pingback by Concert Review: Jenifer Jackson at Rockwood Music Hall, NYC 11/18/07 « Lucid Culture | November 20, 2007 | Reply

  9. […] JACKSON The Outskirts of a Giant Town https://lucidculture.wordpress.com/2007/04/12/review-jenifer-jackson-the-outskirts-of-a-giant-town At Rockwood Music Hall 11/18/07 […]

    Pingback by Index « Lucid Culture | January 19, 2008 | Reply

  10. […] March 28, as you’ve been able to see from our front page for the past month, Jenifer Jackson is playing Joe’s Pub, early, 7:30 PM, $15 and worth it. We continue to be amazed that this […]

    Pingback by NYC Live Music Calendar End of Feb - March 2008 « Lucid Culture | February 23, 2008 | Reply


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