A couple of weeks ago we featured Karen Jonas on the site for the first time with the fantastic ‘Wasting Time’ and having listened to her album ‘Country Songs’ on the back of it, I just knew I had to write a review.
This is Karen’s second release, after her debut album ‘Oklahoma Lottery’ in 2014. After some research, it appears her debut album caused quite a stir upon release and after writing this review the first thing I’ll be doing is to have a listen. But for now I’ll focus on ‘Country Songs’.
The album opens up with the title track where she thanks another ‘for teaching me to love country songs, for making me so sad I want to sing along’. As an opening track it is just perfect and despite the five minute length, this upbeat number almost seems to end too soon. The song has an endearing tongue-in-cheek sense of humour as well, which will certainly put a smile on your face.
The album is 10 songs long and there is just highlight after highlight. ‘Ophelia’ sees the singer telling the title character to take a deep breath and not let her man make her crazy. I love the way she sings this, really showing great character in the vocals as she is ‘demanding’ of Ophelia in her performance.
‘The Garden’ is a beautiful, almost haunting number which looks back at a relationship twenty years before. This song has everything – great lyrics, amazing vocals and a rocking guitar solo . The song is the third on the album, but my initial thought was that it would make a perfect closing track. That was before I heard the actual closing track ‘Yankee Doodle Went Home’ however. This is a wonderful tale of the bad luck that befalls Yankee Doodle, although it seems there is a much deeper meaning behind the song than just the tales of bad fortune.
For me, there are two particular tracks that stand out. ‘Wasting Time’ is the first of these. This is a stunning song which should be on every best of 2016 playlist, although having only really listened to it recently, it will certainly make my best of 2017 list too. The song has a breathless nature, where Karen Jonas sings about holding on to a love, when she knows she is indeed wasting time. Click play on the YouTube clip below and if you don’t fall in love with this song I’d be very surprised…
The other highlight for me is ‘The Fair Shake’. I’m yet to listen to ‘Country Songs’ without hitting the repeat button at least once at the end of this song. For me this song has everything. Throughout the album, Jonas does an amazing job of raising the emotion using passionate, ardent vocals, and she does this brilliantly here. The song has a ‘life isn’t fair, but accept it’ message and there is not a moment of the song that I don’t love. The ending is just perfect too.
‘Country Songs’ is an album to savour. It will grab you the first time you listen to it, but it gets better and better with every subsequent listen – in fact, somebody at the record company should have put an ‘addiction warning’ on the record. The album was recorded live in the studio and this gives the recording a certain rawness, while the combination of fiddle, steel and organ and Tim Bray’s brilliant lead guitar work add a real sheen to each song. Karen Jonas might not be a name on everybody’s lips right now, but after an album as good as this, it is surely just a matter of time.