JO HARMAN’S new album “People We Become” was released this month, with the disc on general release from today.
This magazine has been a fan of Harman’s buttermilk evocations and seductive moonshine voice for a long time — we have enjoyed her convincing stage craftsmanship and excellent productions over the years.
Jo Harman and her Company have already been nominated for several British Blues Awards (2014 ) — and now “People We Become” recorded at the Sound Emporium in Nashville TN and sponsored by fans — is the next big progression in her career.
Harman united a host of talented musicians for this album, produced by Fred Mollin, with Greg Morrow (drums), Larry Paxton (bass) and guitars by Mike Davies, Pat Buchanan, Tom Bukovac, Bryan Sutton, Terry Lewis and John Willis.
We had a listen:
There’s a crunching self-pounding rhythm on the album opener “No One Left to Blame.”
A distant chant starts things off, then the juddering beat stalks forward, an elongated gait with loosed-off creamy squirts of organ (from Gordon Mote.) Here the voice is implacable and sharp as diamonds.
Piano accompanied “Silhouettes of You” has an evocatively sighing string arrangement (Larry Hall) that is melancholic without being cheerless. This song is filled with desolation, of course, but manages to retain a weak hope of becoming something more… something whole. And maybe that’s what life is all about. This is a dramatic composition filled with yearning.
“Lend Me Your Love” is a huge number in many ways. It is the longest track on the album and jam-packed with passion, depth and quality.
The song can be addressed as part 2 of “Silhouettes.” It begins with a bluesy contralto, with perfect musicality (horns by Jim Hoke & Steve Herman) and builds towards the kind of climax that can help a listener overcome any humps of emotion.
The soft and iconic country-blues number “Unchanged And Alone” is bittersweet and painful in its majesty. The voice of a purple-purring baritone — under military trappings — (snares are faintly heard) grows physically stronger before it breaks-free from the bindings when the time is right. “I’ve learned how to express myself a bit better, and to convincingly put across the stories I’m telling,” Harman explained. “It’s a natural progression. My voice has matured, in the same way that the songs have matured…”
“When We Were Young” is a duet with Michael McDonald (Doobie Brothers.) This has some similar tinglesome lows to those found on “Unchanged” and a real-cool funky groove. It’s not as exciting as the title might suggest — it is soft jazzy soul. The equivalent of a long slow soak in a warm bubble-bath. But effective, though.
Jo Harman is a great soul singer who possesses true vibration, husky timbre and dramatic depth. And this is a handsome collection of songs.