Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Carly Jamison’s New Album Happened for a Reason

Carly Jamison is tough and fearless and funny as hell sometimes too. What a breath of fresh air – in a world of wussy waifs and wannabe Jersey Shore skanks, she’s a rare individual voice making smart, accessible, kick-ass Americana-flavored rock. Whether she’s pissed off, or daring you to do something, or cracking a joke, she sings low and confident, casual and conversational. The conversation might go something like this: “Don’t fuck with me.” Her new album Everything Happens for a Reason has to be one of the best driving albums of recent years – it’ll keep you awake on the way to work, and bring you back to life on the way home. It sounds like a vinyl record, like one of those great Georgia Satellites records from the 80s – that fat backbeat, that whiplash snare drum sound, the way the bass rises as the chorus kicks in and all that kick-ass Stonesy guitar. A lot of that has to do with the fact that Dan Baird of the Satellites (and the Yayhoos) plays guitar here, and he might be even better now than he was then.

The opening track, Bring It On sets the stage nonchalantly with scorching layers of guitar, Jamison coyly sliding up to her notes. As is the case throughout this album, the little touches mean a lot – the drum break just before the end, a slide up on the bass and some tremolo-picking from Baird in the distance as it fades. Doubt – as in “there ain’t no doubt” – works a John Fogerty swamp-blues hook and neat layers of acoustic and electric guitars, the first of several kiss-off anthems. “What doesn’t kill us makes me stronger, and I’ve been through many worse things than this,” Jamison asserts knowingly. The classic, a song that needed to be written, is Ask Me If I Give a Shit, the kiss-off song to end all kiss-off songs. “I’ll look into your eyes and tell you where to go,” Jamison sings practically in a murmur, and it just gets better and better from there. A string section with a woozy phaser effect kicks off The One with You, which might be a cheating song, or it could just be a regret song, Baird again putting the rubber to the road with those big, simple, turbocharged riffs.

The mostly acoustic Hills of Jericho chronicles teenage lust triumphing over conformity, with nice high harmonies by Joslyn Ford-Keel: “I once believed in all their stories, I once believed in all their lies,” Jamison admits, but she doesn’t anymore. Self-Consumed is another go-to-hell number, this one for a selfcentered jerk, anchored by some wry baritone guitar. A Stonesy stomp, Look Where It’s Coming From is a dis aimed at a big bullshitter; No Control Anymore starts out tense and acoustic, threatening to fly off the hinges at any second, and when the electric guitars kick in on the chorus it’s soooo satisfying.

After the reverb-drenched honkytonk blues This Big Old Bottle, the album ends with what should be the single, Dreaming, an Orbisonesque noir tremolo-pop song with some tasty violin textures as it builds. It’s simple enough to fool the programmers, real enough to sink its hooks into you and not let go. Maybe this can be Jamison’s sneak attack on country radio – country radio is rock now after all, and it’s overdue for an antidote to all those Shania Twain wannabes. A self-taught musician and songwriter based in New York, Jamison seems more of a creature of the studio than a live performer; here’s hoping this album gets her songs the exposure they deserve.

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April 7, 2011 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Shenandoah and the Night Mix Intriguing Noir Styles

Dark pop/soul band Shenandoah and the Night’s frontwoman Shenandoah Ableman has one of those disconcertingly guileless indie rock voices. When she goes up high, she goes into falsetto rather than head voice, using the device effectively to add a creepy edge. Her band has a new four-song ep up at soundcloud that’s worth checking out if dark rock is your thing. The first track is a synth-pop number that intriguingly contrasts Ableman’s raw vocals with blippy keyboards and watery 80s chorus-box guitar. Ostensibly a traditional number, Dink’s Song is done here as David Lynch noir doo-wop with just the hint of eerie funeral parlor organ and an unexpectedly soulful, terse blues guitar solo from Sean Hutchinson toward the end. All the Beautiful Ladies seems to be an All the Pretty Horses shout-out,  a potent study in contrast, slowly brooding verse and swinging chorus, mariachiesque southwestern gothic with reverb-drenched guitar and Kenny Warren’s trumpet enhancing the spaghetti western vibe. Ableman sings the last song, a darkly swaying piano/organ tune, with a different backing unit: “These arms, these eyes will hold you when you come home” sounds more like a threat than a consolation. All this could be tremendously cool live. Shenandoah and the Night play the cd release show for this one at Spike Hill on May 28 at 9.

April 7, 2011 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment