As much as I applaud all the emerging young talent on the Country/Americana scene at the moment, I must admit to generally preferring the songwriting of ladies who have “lived a little” if you get my meaning!
They have a wealth of experience (and experiences!) to draw upon and I find their writing is therefore often more varied in subject matter, goes deeper and is more thought provoking.
It is especially exciting to discover an artist who has only just started to write, perform and record a little later in life than some, and that is exactly what we have in California’s Janean Christine Mariani who released her debut EP “Seasons Of The Heart” last week.
An accountant by day, Janean’s music draws on her own life and observations of the world around her while being influenced by the likes of Brandy Clark, Ashley McBryde, Rosanne Cash and Mary Chapin Carpenter. Ahead of this release she has been gigging regularly and has been amassing a loyal fanbase.
This five-track EP is one of the most beautiful and evocative collection of songs I have heard in a very long time, particularly the honest, heart wrenching write “ I Held You In My Arms” which both opens ( studio version) and closes ( bare bones acoustic version ) proceedings . Only someone who has suffered the loss of a child at just a few days old could write this, and Janean pours out her heart to her son asking if it was something she did ( or didn’t ) do that was responsible for his passing……”Was it something that I said, the words I never spoke, was it the vows that I had tarnished or a promise that I broke?“ . And she continues to tell him the profound impact he still has on her today …..” these days i hold you in the place where my heart beat in my chest ……I look for you in the eyes of strangers….”. Anyone listening to this and failing to be moved must be incredibly hard hearted!
The mood changes with the more upbeat (in several ways!) second track, “ She Said She’s Leaving’” , a gal power song for sure in which a downtrodden wife and mother with “ A job going’ nowhere, no one to come home to “ finally finds the courage to move on. Leaving a note taped on the front door and the house keys in the mail box she’s off to start afresh. I really love the arrangements throughout this EP but particularly the mandolin on this track.
The theme of loss from the opening song returns for “ The View From Her Window”, a wistful write about a young woman wondering what might have been if her father hadn’t left when she was a young child. The atmospheric lap steel accompaniment is perfect, as it is on “ There But for The Grace Of God” which reminds me in some ways of Tenille Townes “Somebody’s Daughter” in that it’s about those who have fallen on hard times for no reason of their own but just through a series of circumstances (such as addiction and job loss) that could have happened to any of us. “Don’t judge me as I hold this cardboard sign”.
As touched on already, there is some beautiful yet simple instrumentation throughout, with Janean on acoustic guitar and additional bass, electric guitar, lap steel and mandolin all courtesy of Jim Henry who also mixed the EP. He made sure that it’s Janean’s writing and impressive, emotive vocals that are rightly to the fore and command the listener’s attention at all times.
A companion book of the same name (another first for Janean, containing memoirs and poetry) is due for release in May.
Further information along with download and streaming links can be found at www.janeanchristinemariani.com
Review written by Lesley Hastings (twitter.com/lesleyhastings)