Here is a lady who knows how to look after her fans: I count myself among them and, to give you an example, I bought Jo Harman’s superb 2012 album, Dirt On My Tongue direct from her website and took the value-packed option of the special USB with the “Dirty Demos” on. It cost only a little more and yet I got nifty credit card thing that (once I discovered how to flip it open) supplies a bakers dozen of demos and additional tracks (including one of the few versions of Whiter Shade of Pale that didn’t induce catalepsy)…plus it was adorned by the rather sultry picture from the album cover…hey, I’m a red-blooded male! I make a point to buy from the artist’s site whenever possible as they make more money, and therefore more music, than the pitiful amounts the streaming, tax evaders, and download sites pay them.
If you haven’t heard Jo’s work then you really should…the way she marries soul, blues, rock and gospel is always a treat. This Luton born, Brighton music college alumnus is a force that should be lauded, applauded and recognised by a much wider audience…now is your chance before she takes her “baby break” and leaves us without the prospect of any more new stuff for a while at least.
Anyway, the follow up to the equally lovely People We Become album is at last with us. Called Signature Soul, the only problem is it only has five tracks; the good news is each one is a cracker and the accompanying DVD shows her and the band on superb form…and that is true form unembellished by studio trickery; all of this was rehearsed and recorded by the band together in the same room as it should be.
To the music, and the opening Lennon and McCartney song, Don’t Let Me Down. At the risk of suffering the ire of multitudes, I am going to admit that I never ‘got’ The Beatles. Sure there were a few decent compositions in their latter days, but often these were better when performed by others…and that is definitely the case here. Jo takes this song (gently) by the scruff of the neck and transforms it into the passionate treatise it should have been. Multiple layers of emotion from Jo and the band just ooze out of the speakers, grab hold and don’t let go…yes, it is that good. The Hammond solo is just what no one would have expected and is inventive and extraordinary.
Keep You Guessing has slide sounding a bit pedal steel with simple but clever bass, keys, and drum patterns as Jo makes you melt with a beautiful performance. Then the guitar has a solo that is woefully short but oh so sweet. The Angel Leaves Her Watermark is simply stunning in its simple complexity…just lose yourself in the vocals and all is well with the world. The instrumentation behind Jo is enough to build tension and still convey the same emotions. Say That You Want Me is a little bit pacier with a delicious strummed guitar intro that hints at funk as the vocal melds gospel and soul and makes me fall in love with Jo all over again. One tip, if you can place those vocals in the background, listen to the guitar flourishes and the short and sweet solo and wonder! Loving Arms was written by the relatively unknown Thomas Louis Jans, although Kris Kristoffersen and Rita Coolidge first covered this particular song and I only know it from the Etta James version…oh, and the forgettable Beautiful South attempt. This is, however, a very memorable version as, once again the emotions are palpable and the guitar intro is beyond sublime in its careful, sparse composition.
The only complaint, apart from being only five tracks, is that this release doesn’t show how well Jo can do other tempos and genres…but buying her other two albums easily cures that. An example: Under The River from Dirt On My Tongue shows her ability to do blues and rock as well.
If you’re looking for out and out rock or blues, then this album will not supply that: however, I do implore you to give it a listen…after all, I am a rock and blues fanatic but I am still captivated by every nuance this lady (and her band) fit into every note. This is the music of life that the other specific genres sometimes neglect…don’t miss it.
Bluesdoodles rating: Stupendous – definitely an album for your must-listen collection
- Don’t Let Me Down (Lennon – McCartney)
- Keep You Guessing (Harman – McEwan)
- The Angel Leaves Her Watermark (Wood)
- Say That You Want Me (Harman – Davies)
- Loving Arms (Jans)
Jo Harman: vocals
Stefan Redtenbacher: bass
Mike Outram: guitar, backing vocals
Ross Stanley: Hammond, Fender Rhodes
Mike Sturgis: drums, percussion
Recorded at Masterlink Studios, Surrey and produced by Jo Harman and Stefan Redtenbacher
(The iTunes run on this time took me to Joanne Shaw Taylor: another gorgeous player and singer and the lead-off track from Almost Always Never: Soul Station…who says serendipity doesn’t work? Soul Signature and Soul Station!)