Friday, 1 June 2018

ALBUM REVIEW: Karen Jonas - Butter : Self Released

BUTTER is the third album from singer-songwriter Karen Jonas and one where she branches out to capture a multitude of stylish sounds. Ten self-penned efforts unravel to give the record a rounded feel while not straying too far from a southern template. You do get the impression that feet are still being found, but the experimental stage bodes well to when the defining moments are discovered.

A strong country core anchors the album as befits an artist from Fredericksburg Virginia. Whether you choose to lean towards the traditional firebrand number ‘Mamas First Rodeo’, judgementally delivered with total sass profoundly exemplified in the line ‘don’t try to bullshit me darling’ or the vivacious ballsy jazz title piece ‘Butter’, definitive nuggets remain visible on the surface.

Joining the latter in old time show time mode are ‘Mr Wonka’ and ‘Oh Icarus’ complete with horns and assorted brass arrangements. There are probably the biggest contributors to the eclectic charge and indicate a slight deviation from somebody who has notched up an Ameripolitan Award nomination in the honky tonk category.

From the brisk opener ‘Yellow Brick Road’ to the more tempered closer ‘The Circus’ Jonas plays a vocal blinder, burying deep emotion into each song providing the album belief, integrity and a sizable dose of panache. In fact, one of the key lyrical moments on the record etches into the opener with the line ‘dreams are paved with fool’s gold’. The closer confirms a nagging likeness to the vocal style of Amanda Shires that occasionally seeps out.

Perhaps the song that moves most as multiple plays rack up is second track ‘My Sweet Arsonist’, a piano and steel combined country inspired effort elevated to leader board status on the back of an impressionable chorus. ‘Gospel of the Road’ also has potential to progress with its contemporary feel and slide into a rockier territory. Tracks like ‘Kamikaze Love’ and ‘Dance With Me’ are still to find their feet as time came to commit some thoughts to print. Providing a reminder that development to nail a full house is still to be accomplished.

This is the second of the three albums released by Karen Jonas to get an international focus and is equipped to build upon the positive reception afforded to 2016’s COUNTRY SONG. A strong vocal presence unites the explicit eclectic nature of BUTTER and its overall production merit makes this an album to earn its stripes.