Jenny James – ‘Shining On’ album review
Jenny James – ‘Shining On’ album review
“It’s sure to say the time has come, there’s no swaying any more . . .”
So begins the opening track of Jenny James' debut album 'Shining On'. And if you haven’t yet felt that the time has come, then I suggest you sit down and listen to this offering, over and over, from beginning to end, until that message sinks in.
And this time, don’t just listen with your ears, as ears are easily fooled by glossy (but really cheap) production tricks and flashy playing, not to mention lulled by repetitive clichés about ‘lerv’ and loss that are as tiresome and predictable as the plot of any formulaic romance novel.
This time, listen with your whole body.
Feel the music . . . feel the songs. Notice that the singing and the music are not imposing on you, not demanding that you respond in a certain way. Neither are they seducing or cajoling you to join them in an aurally contrived emotional backwater . . . that comfortably uncomfortable swamp that you always find yourself in when you’re feeling empty, or at a loose end, or simply not wanting to register what you’re really feeling at the time. Like ‘chocolate time’.
Listening with your whole body will allow you the space to become aware that there is another and different way of making and enjoying music; a way that is at once uplifting and truly celebratory. A way that begins with the premise of the glory that is this life . . . the glory that deep within we each essentially are. This album, with astonishing ease, delivers this message in spades, track after track.
Here we have not so much a redefinition of country music, but more so a restoration of the genre to its rightful place in the hallowed halls of popular music. Jenny James takes country music back to its heart, lavishing us with the direct and innocent honesty long departed from the whisky-soaked and world-weary procession that vies for attention in a cynical and desensitised marketplace, where the bar is constantly forced lower and lower in increasingly desperate attempts to gain recognition or maintain relevance.
Two words that should never have to appear together, but sadly in this age of manufactured sincerity, of confected authenticity, of fairytale romances and quickie divorces, of one-night stands and chemically enhanced romps that usually end in unfulfilled self-loathing, it is necessary that they do appear together – to remind us that the glittering baubles of the world that are so widely craved and pursued are not, in truth, what we all truly seek in our heart-of-hearts.
That is: to love, and to be loved.
And that, my friends, is fully understood by the folk who made this testament to love and the celebration that must necessarily accompany the expression of that love, as naturally as the angels must sing for the sheer joy that is their being. Songs that appear here such as ‘Little Feather’ and ‘When You Walk Beside Me’ are but two where the angels would be busting out to join in on the choruses.
With all songs conceived and composed by Jenny James and arranged and produced by the wife and husband team of Jenny and Chris James, this album always retains a country music flavour at its core, but then finds itself effortlessly slipping into at once a taste of 30s jazz-inspired torch music . . . yet further a whiff of gospel but without that sense of oppression and victimhood that seems to permeate much of that style.
The orchestration is skilfully handled by Chris and delivers some surprises as well as some genuine sing-along foot stompers. Is that an oud I hear, weaving its way like an ephemeral strand of frankincense smoke through Jenny’s delicately delivered vocal melody? And that’s just one of a wide range of accompaniments that combine to make this compendium of 12 tracks anything but predictable, as string bass then electric, organ and piano, a pluck of banjo, now horns and strings make space for each other, while Jenny James’ refreshingly honest yet intimate vocals provide not only soothing melody, but ably assisted by Chris, strong harmonies to further enhance the experience.
Healing music indeed.
Peppered with inspired insight – of the truth of self-love, the sacredness of the woman, and the understanding that relationship and reflection are the means we use to see through the strife-torn illusion that the emotional and dog-eat-dog individualistic upbringing we have endured has delivered us into – this album achieves what so few can:
Join in, sing from your heart with your whole being, feel the joy that you remember from childhood, and you’ll know what I mean.