Lucid Culture
December 2014

Jenifer Jackson’s Latest Brilliant Album Follows Her Deeper into Americana

It’s hard to think of a more brilliantly chameleonic songwriter than Jenifer Jackson. She can switch from honktonk to bossa nova to oldschool soul to psychedelia and absolutely own all of those styles. Throughout her career – from the Beatlesque tropicalia of her first full-length album Slowly Bright, through her most previous, more mistily bucolic The Day Happiness Found Me – one constant has been how economically she writes. No wasted notes, no wasted words, always straightforward and direct with an unselfconsciousness that can be downright scary. The other constant is that she’s always had an amazing band. She did a long stretch in New York for about ten years, ending in the late zeros, before setting down new roots in Austin. The change did her good, inspiring her to follow the Americana muse that always seemed to be perched on her shoulder somewhere.

Her latest album, Texas Sunrise, is streaming at Bandcamp. Jackson opens it with the gently evocative title track, fingerpicking her guitar against the warmly wistful backdrop of Kullen Fuchs’ vibraphone and Chris Meitus’ mandolin, Tony Rogers’ cello adding a stark undercurrent. A Heart With a Mind of its Own goes deeper into 50s C&W, period-perfect down to the fluttery cello multitracks. By contrast, the album’s other vintage country tune, Sad Teardrops is a hard-hitting hard-honkytonk kiss-off anthem worthy of early Loretta Lynn. And Paint It Gold, a duet with co-writer Fuchs, takes the idiom forward twenty years to the early 70s proto-outlaw sounds of bands like the Flatlanders.

Jackson’s voice can be fetchingly poignant, as on the warily introspective ballad Easy to Live, or the evocative, balmy atmospherics of the nocturne When Evening Light Is Low. And her gently ambered, vibrato-tinged vocals on the dreamily regretful Ballad of Time Gone By will give you goosebumps. Yet her most nuanced and quietly impactful moments are actually on the more upbeat material here, particularly the Rosanne Cash-esque In Summer, a blend of Americana and the elegant pop tunesmithing of Jackson’s early days, lit up by Fuchs’ one-man horn section.

Similarly, the most energetic songs here are the real knockouts. All Around, with its windswept angst and desolate shoreline milieu, evokes Steve Wynn at his most haunting and wintry. Fuchs colors the uneasy Texas shuffle On My Mind with accordion washes and swirls and then a soaringly aching brass section. A Picture of May plunges more broodingly into southwestern gothic, a plaintively stately, bolero-tinged number. The most quietly devastating track here is White Medicine Cloud, a hypnotic, metaphorically bristling anthem with an understated antiwar message, Jackson painting a great plains tableau that’s genuinely touching.

On a more sobering note, over the past few weeks Jackson has been battling an injury that’s forced her to switch to piano. Although she’s a competent player, guitar is her main axe, and not being able to play it has thrown a wrench in her ability to just pack up and perform pretty much anywhere. She’s pretty tough, so the longterm prognosis is optimistic. But if there ever was a time to support this resolutely individualistic artist, now is it. You can pick up the album at Bandcamp or Jackson’s merch page.


Alan Young
November 2013

Ever since the 90s, I've been putting together an annual list of the year's best albums. Trying to rank them is completely subjective and a little ridiculous, but whenever I question the wisdom of this absurdly herculean task, an album like this one comes along and reminds me why I make the effort.

You might think that after ten albums, a film score and a handful of tracks scattered across the internet, Jenifer Jackson would have settled on one particular style. But that would be too easy. She likes to reinvent herself, so, the cd you are holding right now, her eleventh, is where she goes deeper than ever into the Americana roots she loves so much. Jenifer has always had a thing for vintage country sounds - for example, you may remember Trouble Fire, a country ballad as exquisitely sad as they get, from Jenifer's third album, Birds. Making Austin, deep in the heart of Texas, her home base, was an auspicious move that faciliated the creation of this charming, funny, poignant, meticulously crafted collection of songs.

Great songwriters never have to look far to find great musicians. The Austin-based cast of characters here have a chemistry and and unselfconsciously joyous connection to the music as direct and intense as any group Jennifer has ever assembled, to rival her first teenage band in Boston (which morphed into the Autumn Defense), and her New York band with guitar genius Oren Bloedow. So, it's no surprise that for the first time ever, Jenifer includes songs here that she's written with others. There's the deliciously aphoristic Heart with a Mind of Its Own, a classic country co-write with Dickie Lee Erwin. And Kullen Fuchs, who plays a small vanload of instruments on this, co-wrote the artfully arranged duet Paint It Gold as well as the gently visionary anthem White Medicine Cloud.

And the rest of this is the Jenifer Jackson we know and love: no wasted words, no wasted notes, a voice and a vision which can be as tender as they are resolute. And fun too! The countrypolitan chamber swing of Texas Sunrise; the way the pulsing string section parts the waters for Kullen's recorder on All Around; that jaunty walk down Phil Spencer's bass into a counterintuitive chord change as In Summer begins; and the elegant handoff from cello, to accordion, to bubbly mariachi horns in On My Mind are just a small handful of the boundlessly imaginative touches here that reveal themselves with repeated listening. You are in for a real treat with this record.


delarue
New York Music Daily, March 23, 2014

Jenifer Jackson Brings Her Austin Americana Sophistication to the Rockwood

Purist psychedelic pop polymath Jenifer Jackson released her full-length debut, Slowly Bright at the very end of the 90s, a mix of bossa nova, Bacharach and the Beatles that remains a landmark in that genre. But even on that album, there was a little Americana. In the years since, Jackson has ventured further into chamber pop and jazz, but the roots of those styles always had a pull on her. A move to Austin and a new cast of musicians to rival any group she's ever worked with springboarded her latest shift deeper into vintage C&W sounds, TX Sunrise. It's the prolific tunesmith/chanteuse's eleventh release and one of her best, a clinic in how to make an album in a bedroom (or a living room) that sounds like it was recorded at Carnegie Hall. The sonics are so lush in places that it's easy to forget that the instrumentation is practically all acoustic. She's playing songs from it at the big room at the Rockwood on March 26 at 9 PM.

There's never been anything quite like this before. A string section holds much of the sound aloft (multi-instrumentalist Kullen Fuchs gets credit for much of that), yet it remains raw and close to the ground, more like early ELO doing country than an enveloping, early 60s Owen Bradley countrypolitan production. Case in point: the upbeat country-chamber duet Paint It Gold. And the songwriting is classic Jenifer Jackson, straightforward and disarmingly direct yet constantly changing shape. The arrangements and musicianship have a lot to do with that: within the space of a single verse, there could be an acoustic guitar mingling with the strings, then a dobro solo handing off to Jackson's own honkytonk piano (!), then the accordion picking up the tune and deftly passing it back to the dobro. That's a play-by-play of what happens on Heart with a Mind of Its Own, a co-write with Dickie Lee Erwin, that could be a Kitty Wells classic from 1956 or so.

The album's most down-home flavored song is Your Sad Teardrops, a sardonic honkytonk kissoff anthem with another deliciously spot-on saloon piano break from Jackson. The title track adds fluttery, rippling, psychedelic touches to a warmly evocative Tex-Mex shuffle. Likewise, Jackson's easygoing but insistent acoustic guitar contrasts with the lullaby ambience of the accordion and string section on Easy to Live, which could be an outtake from her brilliant 2007 live-in-the-studio album The Outskirts of a Giant Town. When Evening Light Is Low evokes a ballad from that album, The Missing Time, its balmy nocturnal milieu grounded by a persistent unease, something that recurs again and again throughout many of the songs here.

As it does on Ballad of Time Gone By, which opens as a gentle country waltz, Jackson's voice soaring up to some spine-tingling high notes before descending back to earth – and suddenly what could be bittersweet nostalgia becomes a distantly aching lament. The way she slowly and methodically unveils her images on the understatedly plaintive but driving anthem In Summer, from furtive animals on the lawn to a menacing sunset milieu, is viscerally haunting.

Much as an often surreal humor spices the arrangements, there's a lingering sadness in much of her work, and that comes to the forefront in the best songs here. She's done Nashville gothic memorably before; this time, she goes into southwestern gothic for On My Mind, with its spaghetti western horns, bluesy cello and accordion. Same deal with Picture of May, a creepy bolero that another singer might do luridly, but Jackson maxes out the menace with her dreamy delivery as the images grow more enigmatic and ominous. All Around builds a mood of quiet despair via a wintry seaside tableau set to flinty, anthemic backbeat rock that wouldn't be out of place in the Steve Wynn catalog. And the most shattering of all the tracks is White Medicine Cloud, a bitter, war-torn lament driven by Jackson's foreboding tom-tom work: the portait of a herd of buffalo reaching to comfort a newborn calf who is very unlike them is genuinely heartwrenching. As is the somber trumpet line that returns the song from reverie to sobering reality. Count this multi-faceted masterpiece as one of the very best albums of 2014 so far, up there with Rosanne Cash's The River & the Thread, Karla Moheno's Time Well Spent and Marissa Nadler's July. It's been a good year for women artists, hasn't it?


Andy M. Waltzer
April 17, 2012

beyond beautiful

There are albums that one reaches for at 3 AM, that do not just connect in a casual way but feel like the comfort of a close friend. This album is a sterling example of such a special recording. The music dips into styles of folk, pop (in the classic songwriting sense), country and a sort of folk-soul- all beautifully arranged and wrapped around the Jenifer's ethereal yet earthy voice.
Ethereal yet earthy could also describe the lyrics, never overplaying a scene but sparsely conjuring what is conveyed to a result where a soft voice singing truthfully resonates all the more intensely because of the peace in it. The peace conveyed here is one that isn't simple- there is a deep melancholy, a sense of loss, grief, and transcendence. The lyrics are laced with imagery that is both crushing in it's sadness and simultaneously healing in it's beauty- the references to nature, both physical and emotional, call to mind both what tethers and releases us. Feeling the darkness and setting out toward a brighter place.
It's the kind of album one clicks into and while listening cannot imagine any more beautiful music. Being someone whose life has revolved around music it's stunning and lovely to hear an album that feels as important and heart stirring as when I first heard my long time favorites. In a world of transient music-of-the-moment, trust me: this is someone to hold onto, a keeper that will continue to give to the listener upon every listen.

delarue
New York Music Daily, November 2011

Global Music With a New York Edge
Jenifer Jackson's New Album: An Emotional
Portrait of the Here and Now

We typically associate emotional depth with sadness. Jenifer Jackson's music has always been deep, usually with a melancholy edge, so on one level her new album The Day Happiness Found Me is quite a change. But the semantics of the title are a giveaway: she wasn't expecting this. Against a backdrop of sometimes crushing angst and an awareness of the ever-present possibility of defeat, this enchantingly subtle singer offers guarded hope for the future. Sometimes sultry, sometimes aching, sometimes absolutely shattering, it's a definitive record for our time.
Jackson has made a career out of pushing the envelope: merging Beatlesque psychedelia with Brazilian rhythms, blending jazz sophistication with the direct emotional impact of country music and vintage 70s soul. This latest album, her seventh full-length release, is her most intimate to date, distilled to a crystalline purity. She's always been an extraordinarily nuanced singer, and has been through several phases, from misty chanteuse to powerful soul belter. Here, she's never sung more directly, yet more subtly, over arrangements which are sparse but not spare, just Jackson and Chris McQueen on guitars and keys, with Chris Jones on bass (and Hem's Jason Mercer guesting on four-string on two tracks). To say that this is a departure from the intricate psychedelia of her previous album The Outskirts of a Giant Town is an understatement.
The Missing Time opens the album on a pensive note: as is the case from here on out, Jackson's images linger vividly. "Autumn descends" is the focal point here. It's about missing someone, just vocals and fingerpicked guitar, with a gentle allusive Stax/Volt solo from McQueen. Groundward is classic Jenifer Jackson: an inscrutable, hypnotically imagistic rainy day tableau where "Yesterday the motion had no meaning, yesterday the seasons were careening, groundward." Is the understated depiction of the gentle drizzle an ominous omen (especially with those dark, low-register guitar flourishes), or a sign that the sun's about to shine? Bring on the Night is not the Kool & the Gang song: it's an original, casually and very cleverly building to a lushly crescendoing janglerock chorus. When Jackson's voice sloops and then spirals low with anticipation right as it kicks in, the effect will give you goosebumps – this is a reprieve she's talking about. What Makes Love Stay is a catchy oldschool country song: it would give instant cred to somebody like Carrie Underwood or her late 2011 equivalent (the Carrie Underwoods of the world don't last long).
The murky boudoir ambience of Whispering Words reaches back toward the low-key psychedelic vibe Jackson mined on her last couple of albums, while the absolutely gorgeous, artsy pop of In Spring – a track that wouldn't be out of place on a pre-Dark Side Pink Floyd record – shoots for an optimistic outcome after some disappointments: "One bad season does not make a year," she reminds. She pulls out her best, plushest soul delivery for the soaring Game & Huff style Baby Did You Think That Love Would Find a Way, then reaches back another ten years for a 60s psychedelic pop vibe on I Remember. And The Beauty in the Emptying goes for a perfectly sparse arrangement, a reflection on letting go of the clutter – emotionally or otherwise – and looking forward to a new adventure. Of all the songs here, Maybe is the stunner, the genuine classic, awash in tense, noir atmospherics. Travel and a search for home have been major themes in Jackson's music: this could be where she seizes victory from the jaws of defeat.

Beneath the white November moon
A tiny crescent in a deep blue

Cutting stark patterns through twisted trees

I walked a long time through fallen leaves

I tried to talk to you if only in my mind
Looking for an answer for anything that I could find

Maybe this is as much sense as life will ever make

Kathryn Kotrla
North University Neighborhood Association Newsletter, December, 2011

Suonare, Cantare, Insegnare

Why string three Italian verbs together to introduce a NUNA neighbor? "To play, to sing, to teach" somehow hints at the talent and depth of Jenifer Jackson, who lives on a quiet corner of NUNA. Jenifer is about to release her 9th CD of original music. On the day we chatted, she was heading off to arrange her painting and drawings for the CD cover. She's planning an album debut at one of her favorite venues, the Cactus Café on the UT campus. Her performances in New York are for a regular following that appreciates her poetry in her music. In Scandinavia and Japan, and in venues like the Parisian Olympic Theatre, she enjoyed entertaining audiences in the thousands; but she admits to "a crush on Austin," and a confluence of personal and musical relationships that brought her here.
When asked how she describes her music, Jenifer pauses: "I'm never able to do that. It's melodic. I love melody. It's about personal observations, reflections, working through my own psychology, but so others can tap into it." She returns to images, being a visual artist also, particularly images of nature, since nature is a common thread between us, a "metaphor" for everyone. What is striking in her performances is her capacity to capture archetypes in her melodic, seemingly simple, musical creations. In reflecting on this ability, Jenifer notes her awareness of "death, time, impermanence, love," and how her gift of knowing "colors everything." She is generous in examining the speculation that she instinctively taps the multiple layers of time and existence. But reaching clarity, she explains that making her music for others is a means of meditation for her, and provides a healing effect for those engaged in the process of performing and listening together. You can visit www.jeniferjackson.com, and link to Jenifer's MySpace page where you can down-load songs via MP3, or spend a delightful evening at NeWorlDeli where she performs on the third Wednesday of every month starting at 7 pm .
Why "Suonare, Cantare, Insegnare"? Jenifer's "day-job" is teaching Italian lessons to folks ranging from their teens to their late 60's, including a few NUNA neighbors. Jenifer has a life-long fascination with Italy, and says, "The second I got there, I felt like I was home….I love their way of life; how they celebrate each day and celebrate each other." As a teacher, a "professoressa", Jenifer is intuitive, challenging, inventive, practical, and fun. Her knowledge of Italian is deep, having lived there for a number of years.
One of the pleasures of living in NUNA is discovering the fascinating, talented folks who live here quietly, tapping into and replenishing the positive energy here. They're often not apparent immediately, since their busy lives and multiple interests may not include a focus on neighborhood issues, but they are true gems, able to teach us all through their work, music and philosophy, however expressed. Check out Jenifer. Have her teach you Italian. Come listen to her at NeWorlDeli or during her performances elsewhere. Buy her CDs and be transported. Experience the truths that unite us all.


Andy Waltzer
June 2011

The Day That Happiness Found Me

The music on this album is so crystalline in its poetry...the lyrics, the music, and the performances all feel like every speck- each word, each note, each shift in tone of voice- has a meaning that stems from the innermost soul and ripples outward. The album is massively gorgeous, it's really like a close friend to me already. There's something in both your singing and writing where nothing seems just played or sung- every bit of it is felt, every note is experienced. I never feel like I am just listening to music, I feel like I am experiencing what inspired the music. & this album does that special thing where it's the sort of music that does that magic thing where the listener feels less alone in places that might feel private otherwise. That space where what could be pain or sorrow is expressed in such beautiful sound. The music you are making is truly tremendously special and I want people to feel that, appreciate it. It should be more than casually listened to, it should be loved. I kind of wish people would buy this album and not listen to anything else for days- if anyone thought of doing that I would promise them they would be better off. I think sometimes with files and MP3's and all that the sacred experience of exploring a new album gets lost. I mean, imagine if instead of buying Blue people just downloaded A Case Of You or something and had it on shuffle on their I pod.


Just wanted to say how much I LOVE the new music...it's stunning to me how beautiful her music was from the first time I heard it (the lifetimes ago EP) and somehow it has grown in beauty, in depth, in all around atmosphere and loveliness and resonance, over the years. The new music is the most beautiful yet- the sort that one would listen to not only when they want to but when they need to. There's a lot of experience and heart- strong and soft, bright and dark- in these songs. There are moments that are so captivating and both sweet and soft and intense, it just feels so pure and beautiful. Difficult not to overuse the word beautiful when writing about it!


Lucid Culture
June 2011

The Day That Happiness Found Me

As you may already know, Jenifer Jackson has been writing quietly brilliant, eclectic songs for a long time. Maybe you discovered her, as I fortuituously did, around the time of her paradigm-shifting bossa/Beatlesque/psychedelic pop album Slowly Bright a few years back. Since then, she's explored country music, jazz, classic soul music and even garage rock, coloring those songs with her inimitably crystalline lyrics and that amazing voice. This new album, The Day That Happiness Found Me, I believe, is her best. It's her most intimate, and, maybe ironically, her deepest. We tend to associate depth with sadness, if only because that's what most people learn from. I think Jenifer is ahead of the curve because she goes so soulfully into the good times as well! The way she keeps you in suspense and then finally goes up and nails the crescendo of the Philly soul ballad Baby Did You Think That Love Would Find a Way; the hope that curves ever so distantly, yet memorably, around her phrasing in the folk-pop gem In Spring; and my favorite track here, Maybe, an existentialist rock masterpiece: she grabs the chorus and breaks free on so many levels that it's not possible to list them here.

The arrangements are spare and intimate as well, like a Jenifer Jackson concert in your living room. Her own imaginative guitar and keyboard work is complemented by the gorgeously melodic guitar and keys of Chris McQueen and Chris Jones on bass, with Hem's Jason Mercer adding his own signature four-string excellence on What Makes Love Stay - the great country hit that could give Miranda Lambert some real cred - and the quietly triumphant closing cut, The Beauty in the Emptying. That one's about cleaning out the clutter during a move from one town to another, just one example of how Jenifer can create real poetry out of a seemingly mundane task. I've been fortunate to able to see her play several times, although not as many as I would have liked. If you get the chance, I encourage you to do the same; in the meantime, this album will draw you in, reassure you and keep you reaching for the repeat button

- Alan Young, Lucid Culture, NYC, June 2011


Lucid Culture
January 23, 2010

Jenifer Jackson at Banjo Jim's, NYC 1/21/10

Back from a trip to Austin, Jenifer Jackson's got a band together again: Greg Wieczorek on drums and Jason Mercer on a gorgeous Danelectro SG copy bass. A couple of songs into the set, beaming, she announces that she's rediscovered that she actually likes music. She should, with this band. Her songs are pretty and haunting when she plays them solo; with a rhythm section behind her, they are transcendent. She's a pretty intense guitarist, and this comes across especially on the Ticket to Ride-inflected Down So Low as she wails on the downstrokes, on the beat. The band has re-energized her.

But this is Mercer's night. Choice, tasteful pieces of broken chords on the slower, country-flavored ballads; slinky slides and bends on the more rocking songs, and every now and then he winds up a crescendo with few sweetly, quietly boomy chords. It's a clinic in how to play bass and it's free.

Boo Reiners from Demolition String Band gets cajoled into playing Telecaster on a handful of numbers and the effect is the same. He knows every country lick in the book, but instead he goes counterintuitive with bends and passing tones and immediately the songs go to the next level, and it's effortless, or at least it looks that way.

The songs, as they always do, run the gamut — the joyous white soul jangleforest of Suddenly Unexpectedly; the practically noir, nocturnal pop of Maybe; a new country song that would elevate Carrie Underwood's game to the big leagues if she or someone like her could find it and cover it; and a couple of big, hooky, upbeat rockers to close the set. The unrestrained joy shining in Jackson's voice makes the contrast even more striking when she turns down the lights. Suddenly it doesn't matter that it's cold outside and that there's a long train ride lurking ahead. In a word, transcendence.


Lucid Culture
November 26, 2009

Jenifer Jackson at Rockwood Music Hall, NYC 11/19/09

It's a fine line in the music blogosphere -- nobody wants to come off as a cheerleader for a particular artist or band, yet there are some acts who inarguably deserve a lot of attention. Jenifer Jackson is no stranger to regular readers here. But even by her rigorous standards, her show at the Rockwood on the nineteenth was transcendent, the best one she's done -- in New York at least -- in a long time. And there have been some good ones in between, just to go the music index above and you will see plenty. Is this overkill? Not if you consider how the much ink the Village Voice gave the Ramones in the summer of 1977, or how much press Coltrane got back in the 50s. That's not an overstatement. Jackson and her bandmates pianist Matt Kanelos (who leads a fine Americana-rock band of his own) and drummer Billy Doughty gave a clinic in tersely, wrenchingly beautiful songcraft, Jackson'svocals gentle but with the steely resolve that underscores the intensity of the emotion in everything she writes.

Kanelos gave notice that he was in particularly bluesy, soulful mode right from the start, beginnining with the psychedelic ballad The War Is Done, from Jackson's 2001 Birds cd. Good Times Roll (her original, not the B.B.King standard) was hypnotic, even mesmerizing, Kanelos playfully working a glockenspiel in tandem with his lefthand rhythm. The understated frustration anthem Words got a particularly propulsive treatment; by contrast, the hopeful ballad Spring (yet another unreleased gem) was lush and sultry, Doughty playing the lead line on melodica.

The angst-driven existentialist anthem Maybe, pondering the point at which it might make sense to let hope -- of whatever kind -- fall by the wayside was driven and insistent, part post-Carole King riffage, part sprightly post-Bacharach pop, part countrypolitan. Wherever the song led, the dark undercurrent beneath the catchy, glistening pop surface was always there.

Her most countrypolitan ballad, After the Fall (also from Birds) got the benefit of an absolutely psychedelic, hypnotic, percussive jam out. She wrapped up the set with two new ones -- a chorus-driven, Mary Lee's Corvette-style Americana pop hit, another that matched early 70s radio pop to a sweaty Philly soul groove, and a particularly wistful, gently lovely take on the unreleased 6/8 ballad The Beauty in the Emptying, whose title pretty much speaks for itself. Doughty again took the lead on melodica, enhancing its gentle resilience. Wow. What a show. You'll see this on our Best NYC Concerts of 2009 list in about a month.

The Rockwood has been Jackson's home for awhile but now that she's back, who knows where she'll be next -- watch this space for upcoming dates.


Lucid Culture
October 11, 2009

Jenifer Jackson at Rockwood Music Hall, NYC 10/11/09

Jenifer Jackson is back. Not that she ever stopped playing or writing songs — the good news is that her self-imposed exile in Austin is over and she's returned to Gotham. Sunday evening's set mixed quiet triumph with some aptly chosen late-summer mood pieces along with some of the tremendously impactful new songs she's been working up over the last few months. If you haven't seen Jackson in awhile and you think you know her, the answer is that you really don't — whether she's working harmonies off the melodies of audience favorites like Summer's Over or End of August, or emphasizing the tropical feel (or the rock feel) of an older number, she's grown to the point where it's always a crapshoot where she'll end up. The only given is that it'll be a good place.

As much a triumphant homecoming as this may have been, pianist Matt Kanelos underscored everything with a gritty chordal tension, completely in sync with the restlessness, unease and occasional outright angst of Jackson's songwriting. His gentle honkytonk work on the rather sweet country ballad The Beauty in the Emptying (on Jackson's forthcoming album) contrasted with the clenched-teeth insistence of the somewhat ironically titled Let the Times Roll (another unreleased, hypnotic gem), the ominously minimalist Groundward and the menacing Blair Witch imagery of Maybe, which was definitely the most intense song of the set.

To end the show, Jackson put down her guitar and over Kanelos' crisp and incisive chords, put her own spin on I Say a Little Prayer for You. She may have learned it from the very first album she ever owned, Aretha Now — "For the longest time I thought that was her name," Jackson revealed — but her interpretation was a whole lot more bossa than brass and played up its nuances for all they were worth. She's back at the Rockwood in November and you ought to see her there.


Lucid Culture
March 11, 2009

Jenifer Jackson and Juliana Nash at Rockwood Music Hall, NYC 3/10/09

A welcome return appearance by two very different, very conspicuously absent songwriting sirens. Jenifer Jackson has gotten a lot of ink here, justifiably: she's simply one of the finest songwriters on the planet, someone who leaps effortlessly across boundaries, intermingling styles with a seemingly intuitive melodicism. Mixing old favorites with songs from a new cd which is three-quarters done, she said, she delivered a typically captivating set, playing her first three songs solo on guitar.

She opened with an unreleased, fetchingly catchy Americana pop number, In Spring: "Time goes fast, living in the past, maybe love will come again in spring," she sang in her signature warm, wistful voice. On both of the next two songs, We Will Be Together and Whole Wide World, she waited til the last chorus and then improvised her way up the scale with not a little imploring and anguish and this was intense to say the least.

Pianist Matt Kanelos then joined her on another new one, Words, a dark existentialist lament that transcends its pretty melody, contributing an aptly darkly glistening solo, Debussy meets Gershwin, when the time came. Jackson sang it impatiently: "Words, get out of my way, tripping me where I go — talk about the moment that is here!" The textural interplay between Kanelos' sharp piano and Jackson's warmly crescendoing fingerpicking was absolutely gorgeous in the relatively new, 6/8 ballad The Beauty in the Emptying.

The best songs of the set were dark, pensive new ones. "Yesterday the motion had no meaning, yesterday the seasons were careening," she related in the first, Groundward, ending up on a predictably brooding note: "Summer rain is falling." The second, Maybe, was absolutely haunting, noir Bacharach-style bossa nova pop with a theme of restlessness, a recurrent topic in Jackson's work. "Maybe this is as much sense as life will ever make," she sang, half cynical and half resigned, Kanelos adding a brilliant, eerie chordal solo followed by Jackson's la-la-la outro, ending unexpectedly and ominously with a minor-key flourish. The two encored with a hasty, happy-go-lucky cover of the old Delfonics' doo-wop hit La La Means I Love You.

Juliana Nash is fondly remembered around these parts as the architect of the Pete's Candy Store sound, and a den mom of sorts to scores of excellent New York acoustic bands who called the little Brooklyn bar home from the mid-90s to the early zeros. This was a striking reminder of how fun her own shows at her old home base used to be. A petite woman with a matter-of-fact, deadpan wit and a big, powerful soul voice, she told the crowd that this was her first-ever show featuring just guitar and piano (Kanelos back behind the keys again, unrehearsed but gamely following Nash's smartly intiutive, catchy changes). Fighting off the rust (she hasn't had many shows here in town recently), she held a lot in reserve tonight until the end of the show, working her way through a mix of pleasantly familiar, pensive, sometimes countryish pop songs. Like Jackson, she has an ear for a hook and an eye for a striking lyrical image: "Love's a champion battleship, you need an ocean of tears to float it," she lamented on the the blue-eyed soul ballad Love Is Heavy that opened the show. Another thoughtful ballad, Maybe Street, looked at life sardonically and metaphorically through the eyes of sisters named Hope and Joy. She used the pensive Built for Longing as an exercise in subtle shading rather than turning it into a big tour de force like she usually does.

She related a story of how she and Jackson many years ago celebrated a birthday by shoplifting a couple of tiaras out of a 99-cent store because they were too broke to afford them. And then launched into a hilarious and absolutely spot-on, somewhat Lou Reed-inflected riff-rock homage to the wee hours in New York: "It's six AM and I'm drunk again, I turn incidents to habits," she wailed gleefully. For anyone who'd ever walked home from the L at 14th St. after closing Pete's, watching the newspaper trucks make their rounds, this hit the spot sweetly. She wrapped up the show with the passionate yet wary rocker Tiny Belladonna (written about her daughter), a darkly beautiful, elegaic number where she cautioned that "It's ok not to be everything we thought we would be when we were young," and another soul-inflected ballad, Everlasting Ache where she paced herself until the end before finally cutting loose with that voice of hers. And then encored with the tongue-in-cheek Rocks in Your Head, something she'd pulled fortuitously from the archives. Jenifer Jackson is back at the Rockwood on Mar 24 at 8; watch this space for Juliana Nash sightings.


Lucid Culture
October 15, 2008

Jenifer Jackson at Rockwood Music Hall, NYC 10/14/08

We've covered several of Jenifer Jackson's shows here before: in case you remember them, this one was characteristically good, yet different (see our index for the full list of 'em). Moving to Austin seems to have been the right decision for her: she's always been a captivating performer, but she seems more carefree now onstage and that ironically gives her the opportunity to really let loose the darkness in her songs. Not everything she does is dark: she loves tropicalia and bossa nova and consequently much of her ever-growing repertoire is sunny and summery, but there's also a substantial portion that's stormy, or pensive, or downright white-knuckle intense. Last night's show was a mix of everything. Lots of new material. She made it a point of prefacing one of the unrecorded numbers: "I don't ordinarily tell what a song is about. I let the audience figure it out," she explained in characteristically inscrutable fashion, then played a very pretty, plaintive 6/8 number, The Beauty in the Emptying. It could mark the end of an affair, but as she'd explained, it was actually about clearing out all the junk at her old East Village apartment before the move.

High point of the night: "Here's an old one," she laughed, launching into the somewhat hypnotic, 6/8, countryish ballad After the Fall, from her 2002 cd Birds:

Love is an ocean
Love is a stone
Love is a wish that
You make on your own
If all of these ghosts would just
Leave me alone
I know that I would be free

She'd brought along her main man Billy Doughty, who played drums smartly and tersely on a single floor tom before switching to piano on one song. Then she brought up Matt Kanelos — who hadn't played with her in a few years - to take over the keys. He played as well as Doughty had, with an equally pointed incisiveness. Their first song together was another new one, Let the Good Times Roll (NOT the old blues standard), an apprehensive, backbeat-driven anthem set off by a tasty descending series of chords. "The sign says, baby, let the good times roll," Jackson sang, but it was with one eye looking over her shoulder: disappointment could be just around the corner. Then she changed things up with the blithe, upbeat ballad In Spring, the first of several that Kanelos had never played with the band and he absolutely nailed it. But that song is pretty intuitive: the next one, Breathe, wasn't, but he nailed that one too, choosing his spots amidst the nooks and crannies of Jackson's expansive guitar chords.

While she was in New York, Jackson maintained a busy schedule, playing several times a month, ironically making it easy to take her for granted. Now that she's gone, every time she comes back is a special occasion. Moral of the story: don't miss your favorite performers, they too may be gone before you know it. No telling when Jackson's back in town (she's made it back every few months since leaving); Kanelos plays a set of his own stuff at the Rockwood on Nov 7 at 7 PM.


Lucid Culture
July 21, 2008

Jenifer Jackson at Rockwood Music Hall, NYC 7/20/08

What a treat to see such a major artist, a Lennon/McCartney/Elvis Costello-class songwriter, in such an intimate, sonically beautiful setting. This was the fun set. Jackson's an urban person at heart, and tonight she might as well have been wearing one of those "I heart New York" shirts. Although Jackson relocated to Austin last year, she and her cohorts onstage — Elysian Fields guitarist Oren Bloedow and her longtime drummer Greg Wiz — were just about jumping out of their shoes, unabashedly delighted to be playing with each other again after a long hiatus. Which was particularly striking, because her stock in trade is lush, jazz and tropicalia-inflected songs with a pensive, moody edge. But tonight was just as much a clinic in good times as good songwriting, featuring mostly new material.

The drummer was playing all the new stuff cold, but nobody would have known it if Jackson hadn't spilled the beans: his feel for her songs is absolutely intuitive. Bloedow played invigoratingly virtuosic, fast bluegrass-inflected lines all night, a striking change from the jazzy noir feel of his own band. "It's hard to play chicken-scratch sitting down," Jackson marveled, but it seemed as if Bloedow would have gladly done it behind his back, and well, if anybody had asked him to. The new stuff is sensationally tuneful and emotionally impactful: since her first full-length album, 1999's Slowly Bright, Jackson hasn't lost a step. Vocally, her range has expanded, in both senses of the word: she has the voice of a survivor, indomitable, confident, despite a few dents probably too deep to ever be completely smoothed out. There's solace in that voice, but there's also a bon vivant who refuses to miss out on anything good. The night's best song, a new number, reflected exactly that. Building on a dark, steady, deliberate descending progression to a passionate crescendo, Jackson sang of letting it all go, defiantly refusing to accede to despair.

Another number had something of a sassy 60s Nancy Sinatra jazz-pop feel. The effortlessly sultry, 6/8 Whispering Words, a sprightly song perhaps titled Spring (as in "maybe love will come again in Spring"), and a particularly haunting breakup song, The Beauty in the Emptying — all new — kept the audience rapt. Nobody said a word, even when the guitars were constantly being retuned (the hundred-degree, humid night outside had a lot to do with that). Which pretty much sums up the show. You would be crazy to miss her the next time she plays here.


Shotmonster.com
July 2008

Photos of Jenifer Jackson at Rockwood Music Hall, NYC 7/20/08


Lucid Culture
March 31, 2008

Jenifer Jackson at Joe's Pub, NYC 3/28/08

In case you haven't been paying attention, there's been a recent crop of songwriters who seem to have decided to write in every single worthwhile style of pop music ever invented - with great success. For one reason or another, maybe having to do with vocals, most of these songwriters are women: Neko Case, Rachelle Garniez and Mary Lee Kortes of Mary Lee's Corvette, to name a few. New York expat Jenifer Jackson is another.

"Now I know how to get people to come to my shows," she knowingly told the crowd at Joe's Pub Friday night. "Leave New York. I've figured it out!" Jackson wasn't exactly a little fish in the pond here, either. Respected by her peers and revered by a fan base for whom she seemingly can do no wrong (if she made an album of Monkees covers, they'd probably buy it), she nonetheless ran into the same brick wall affecting seemingly every New York artist, no matter how well-regarded they might be. Building a following here is tough, with literally scores of live shows competing against each other every night, a hometown media that's essentially oblivious to hometown acts, and an ongoing process of suburbanization where artistically-inclined New Yorkers are being priced out of their neighborhoods and being replaced by corporate executives and their children from the suburbs. In other words, not exactly the kind of crowd you'd expect to come out to see anything more sophisticated than, say, Justin Timberlake. So Jackson packed up and moved to Austin.

Even more than her show at the Rockwood late last year, this was the emotional homecoming she eventually had to make, and she gave the standing-room-only crowd what they wanted. Playing acoustic guitar and accompanied by just violinist Roland Satterwhite, she ran through a mix of mostly more recent material, including several songs from her most recent (and best) cd The Outskirts of a Giant Town. She also debuted three excellent new songs: a hopeful, midtempo country tune, Spring, that wouldn't have been out of place on her 2001 album Birds; a pensively catchy, upbeat number possibly titled Tired; and the best of the bunch, a gorgeous, sad country waltz called The Beauty of the Emptying, with one of Jackson's signature imagistic lyrics. Jackson gets accolades for her songwriting, but tonight was a vivid reminder of what a brilliant song stylist she is, alternating between a nuanced lower register and the soaring, airy delivery that has been her trademark throughout her career. There's great passion and intensity in her songs and in her voice, but it's generally very subtle, tonight's stripped-down arrangements giving her vocals the perfect opportunity to cut through.

"This is a song that earned me two thousand dollars," she told the crowd with considerable irony before launching into a boisterous version of one of her earliest songs, Mercury, the Sun and Moon, a somewhat eerie tribute to the joys and pleasure of being a bon vivant. When she and Satterwhite reached the bridge, she slammed out the song's tango rhythm as he went into a frenzied gypsy-inflected solo. They encored with a fetching duet on the standard Every Time We Say Goodbye, Satterwhite switching to guitar. He's an excellent singer, with a smooth, Chet Baker style delivery, making a good foil for Jackson's warm, wistful vocals. She ended the song with gentle vocalese, going down the scale with a jazzy seventh chord. More than anything, tonight's show was a reminder of everything we stand to lose if this city continues the decline that the Bloomberg administration and its developer cronies are dead set on bringing to its logical conclusion.


Lucid Culture
March 31, 2008

Jenifer Jackson at Joe's Pub, NYC 3/28/08

In case you haven't been paying attention, there's been a recent crop of songwriters who seem to have decided to write in every single worthwhile style of pop music ever invented - with great success. For one reason or another, maybe having to do with vocals, most of these songwriters are women: Neko Case, Rachelle Garniez and Mary Lee Kortes of Mary Lee's Corvette, to name a few. New York expat Jenifer Jackson is another.

"Now I know how to get people to come to my shows," she knowingly told the crowd at Joe's Pub Friday night. "Leave New York. I've figured it out!" Jackson wasn't exactly a little fish in the pond here, either. Respected by her peers and revered by a fan base for whom she seemingly can do no wrong (if she made an album of Monkees covers, they'd probably buy it), she nonetheless ran into the same brick wall affecting seemingly every New York artist, no matter how well-regarded they might be. Building a following here is tough, with literally scores of live shows competing against each other every night, a hometown media that's essentially oblivious to hometown acts, and an ongoing process of suburbanization where artistically-inclined New Yorkers are being priced out of their neighborhoods and being replaced by corporate executives and their children from the suburbs. In other words, not exactly the kind of crowd you'd expect to come out to see anything more sophisticated than, say, Justin Timberlake. So Jackson packed up and moved to Austin.

Even more than her show at the Rockwood late last year, this was the emotional homecoming she eventually had to make, and she gave the standing-room-only crowd what they wanted. Playing acoustic guitar and accompanied by just violinist Roland Satterwhite, she ran through a mix of mostly more recent material, including several songs from her most recent (and best) cd The Outskirts of a Giant Town. She also debuted three excellent new songs: a hopeful, midtempo country tune, Spring, that wouldn't have been out of place on her 2001 album Birds; a pensively catchy, upbeat number possibly titled Tired; and the best of the bunch, a gorgeous, sad country waltz called The Beauty of the Emptying, with one of Jackson's signature imagistic lyrics. Jackson gets accolades for her songwriting, but tonight was a vivid reminder of what a brilliant song stylist she is, alternating between a nuanced lower register and the soaring, airy delivery that has been her trademark throughout her career. There's great passion and intensity in her songs and in her voice, but it's generally very subtle, tonight's stripped-down arrangements giving her vocals the perfect opportunity to cut through.

"This is a song that earned me two thousand dollars," she told the crowd with considerable irony before launching into a boisterous version of one of her earliest songs, Mercury, the Sun and Moon, a somewhat eerie tribute to the joys and pleasure of being a bon vivant. When she and Satterwhite reached the bridge, she slammed out the song's tango rhythm as he went into a frenzied gypsy-inflected solo. They encored with a fetching duet on the standard Every Time We Say Goodbye, Satterwhite switching to guitar. He's an excellent singer, with a smooth, Chet Baker style delivery, making a good foil for Jackson's warm, wistful vocals. She ended the song with gentle vocalese, going down the scale with a jazzy seventh chord. More than anything, tonight's show was a reminder of everything we stand to lose if this city continues the decline that the Bloomberg administration and its developer cronies are dead set on bringing to its logical conclusion.


Lucid Culture
November 20, 2007

Jenifer Jackson at Rockwood Music Hall, NYC 11/18/07

A triumphant homecoming of sorts. Jackson was an East Village denizen and made a name for herself here before relocating to Austin this past spring. It was obviously the right move. She's never looked more at ease onstage or sung better than she did tonight. Like Erica Smith and Rachelle Garniez, Jackson is another one of those multistylistic songwriting machines, someone who can appropriate literally any style of music and make it work, with fluency, poise and passion. Likewise, Jackson has been known to tweak her vocal style from time to time. On her earlier material, she sang with a gentle, tender delivery, then she went through a brief but spectacularly successful phase as a big belter. Tonight it was obvious that she's gotten more in touch with her lower register, giving her vocals a new warmth and confidence. It suits her well.

When her latest cd The Outskirts of a GiantTown came out last spring, we said it was the best album to come out so far in 2007 and that claim still looks to be valid. Playing a sparse, trio show backed by Roland Satterwhite, who played layers of ambience on violin, and Elysian Fields axeman Oren Bloedow, whose virtuosic, jazzy guitar was spot-on all night, she mixed tracks from the new cd along with a couple of brand-new gems and some older material. On the 70s soul-inflected Power of Love, Bloedow grinned as he went into generic Wes Montgomery mode, playing a solo made up solely of octaves. Was there room on the fretboard for the last note of the verse? Yes! Moments like these are typical at Jenifer Jackson shows.

One of the best things about small-group performances like this is that the songs get stripped down to just the moving parts, which can be fascinating to watch. The title track to Jackson's new album actually turned out to be built on a totally generic indie rock progression that pretty much anybody can learn how to play in a few minutes' time. Yet Jackson pulled it off with her airy, jazzy vocal melody, combined with Bloedow's artful passing tones. I Want to Start Something, with its stratospherically high vocal melody — which Jackson absolutely nailed — was particularly captivating, all impatience and longing for something secure. Their absolutely gorgeous, minor-key, bluegrass-inflected take of Dreamland, arguably the best cut on the new cd, got a welcome boost of energy. Of the new songs, the best new one was a jazz-pop number called Words, seemingly about miscommunication. Jackson's songs, and especially her lyrics, are remarkably terse and crystallized, so it's understandable how not being able to precisely express something would really bother her.

They encored with an audience request from her second album, Mercury the Sun and Moon, a tune Jackson wrote back in the 90s while still in her teens. Stripped down to its eerie tango roots, this version saw Bloedow playing a bassline on the guitar with his thumb as he did on several of the other songs. The crowd wanted more, but Jackson hadn't rehearsed anything else with these longtime cohorts of hers. Always leave the audience wanting more, the saying goes. Tonight Jackson and her band did just that.


Claudia Marshall
WFUV fm (Bronx, NY)

"Jenifer's quiet magic will win your heart. Utterly without artifice, this record is pure, groovy and just plain great!"


Frank Goodman
Puremusic #76 (May 2007)

THE OUTSKIRTS OF A GIANT TOWN — Jenifer Jackson

You want an antidote for your craziness. Something you can turn on when you come home and hit a beautiful chill. Your car is here. And take one of these.

JJ's soothing voice is never saying listen to me; it's always saying listen to the music. I'm so grateful for that. Because when I'm listening to the music, I'm also listening to some little place inside myself that is breathing something so essential and so ignorable.

And the sweeping cavalier genius of producer Brad Jones is in full effect here, in the quiet majesty of the arrangements and the atmosphere. The gifted players are so in touch and so in tune with the music of Jenifer Jackson, whose tempo is unbound by time. Most or all have been with her on stage or studio whenever life allows for a number of years. The essence of their contributions is beyond words, because some occur in dimensions outside the corporeal.

Oren Bloedow's shimmering presence on guitar is a world unto itself. I've never heard him vault the ledge in JJ's music the way he does on "The Change," breathtaking. In fact, I find myself doing passes of this precious record concentrating on one player at a time, and following them down the unique traverse of their path through these tunes, and I'm learning from each of them. Sonny Barbato on Wurlitzer, organ, piano, and accordion, there's so much music under his hands. Pat Sansone on bass, melotron, vibes, and organ is a shape shifter. Greg Wieczorek (aka G-whiz) on drums and percussion is always at the right place at the right time, indispensable. He also sings, along with Oren and Pat, through the disc. The addition of Nate Walcott on trumpet and flugel horn is inspired.

The oriental ambience of the title track is a new flavor, fascinating. I truly get something I can feel from the music of this artist that I cannot do without, and am truly in awe of the truth of that.

I've said it before, many times, many ways. This artist should be huge, she's that good and more. I want to live in the world where she's a big star. In fact, I do live in that world. I'll meet you there, on The Outskirts of a Giant Town.


TRIFECTAgram
March 2007

Choice pick: Jenifer Jackson — The Outskirts of a Giant Town

Her best album, the first instant classic to be released this year. Over the course of her previous six albums, Jackson has carved out a niche that is uniquely her own, even though she wears her influences on her sleeve (Bacharach, the Beatles, and Brazilian jazz/pop most notably). There's an impressive clarity of vision that pervades her music — a courageous one. It's what Camus meant by "lucidite" — it's evident from the first song on this album that this is someone who is firing on all cylinders, every synapse wide awake and often painfully aware of what's going on. Her melancholy, intricate, jazz-inflected psychedelia doesn't shy away from despair or loneliness. But there's always a light at the end of the tunnel: as strange as it may seem at first listen, this is ultimately a hopeful, optimistic album. Recorded live in the studio in order to evince as much interplay as possible out of her stellar backing band, the cd is a multistylistic tour de force, opening with Don't Fade, old school 60s- 70s soul with fluttery organ fills and a soaring vocal. Like Sandy Denny, Jackson's formidable prowess as a singer may not be physical — she's not a big belter — but she packs an emotional wallop.

The album's next cut Suddenly Unexpectedly, set to a fast shuffle beat with a bossa melody and layers of keys, is pure psychedelic tropicalia. The following track, Saturday, is something of an epic, and might be the most powerful song she's ever recorded. It starts out somewhat Beatlesque, like a George song from the White Album. She pedals a chord through the verse, then all of a sudden the minor-key chorus descends: "It doesn't matter anyway — I'll keep it in my memory, that lovely Saturday." Then the second verse kicks in, and everything picks up a notch. Jackson is also a painter, and as the images unwind, this tersely imagistic portrait of a young woman absolutely and heartbreakingly alone is absolutely, heartbreakingly beautiful.

After that, we get I Want to Start Something, more old-school soul with psychedelic flourishes, accordionist Sonny Barbato playing some delicious licks off Jackson's equally tasty rhythm guitar. Her voice takes flight again at the end of the verse: "I'd like to find a place that feels like home — been so many places I don't know why I can't find it."

The next cut, Dreamland, begins with a strangely captivating, tinkly piano intro into a wash of cymbals, then Jackson's guitar kicks in all by itself. It's Nashville gothic with all kinds of eerie, echoey effects from lead player Oren Bloedow's guitar. It's scarier than the fast, bluegrass-inflected version she used to play live, with a gorgeously sad lyric: "The way you loved me was a sin/I played a game I couldn't win/Still I tried so hard to enter in/To the outer edge of Dreamland."

Other standout tracks on the cd include the title track, gentle pastoral raga rock evocative of Meddle-era Pink Floyd, with an amazing piano break by Barbato; Anywhere I Would Journey, with its slow descending progression and watery lead guitar; The Change, an epic old-school soul groove-fest that would be perfectly at home on an Isaac Hayes live album from the early 70s; and For You, which with its tricky time changes and 60s garage rock feel wouldn't be out of place on a Love Camp 7 record.

This album is generously multi-purpose: it's a hell of a headphone album, it would make a great bedroom record, but it's also a good thing to give to anyone you know who's going off the deep end. Jackson's gentle, soft voice and her wise, knowing lyrics offer a kind of solace that's completely absent in indie rock, and the inspiring interplay of the band behind her can be mesmerizing. She deserves props for having the guts to reach down into the abyss to come up with some of the songs on this album, while never losing sight of the subtle, frequently surreal wit that imbues so many of them. It's only April, but I think we've found the best album of 2007 and this is it. Cds are available at cdbaby.com, in better record stores and at shows, peep the website, http://www.jeniferjackson.com.


Jonathan Donaldson
Tangents February 2004

SO HIGH -- BEST SOFT POP OF 2003

"For all of the bad pop albums that were put out in 2003, there were indeed some goodies that I got a chance to get to know. This was no easy feat because with the amount of stuff that comes out, true seekers like us can't be expected to really get to know things. Geez, looking at Tangents web page every so often just makes me say, huh, there's another 50 interesting CDs I' m not going to have a chance to hear.

[...] there was an uplifting little pop album from a New Yorker named Jenifer Jackson, called "So High." That was probably my favorite album of all. While completely singer/songwriter, it is also produced to the gills by some cat named Pat Sansone who is also in the Autumn Defense. Jackson's songs are amazing musicially and lyrically, with great changes and transitions, and Sansone's production is like a poor man's Mitchell Froom/Tchad Blake, or Jon Brion. Concertinas, harpsichords, congas, you mention it, warm and earthy, much less of the string and brass stuff that you're in for if you go for the High Llamas record."


Mike Davies
NetRhythms Autumn 2003

"Jenifer Jackson - So High (Bar/None)

Out of New York, Jackson's a wisp of velvet voiced guitar playing songstress who to judge by this, her third album, clearly spent many months of her formative years dreaming in her bedroom to a mixed album collection of Carole King, Laura Nyro, Marvin Gaye, Astrid Gilberto and Burt Bacharach. Thus there's the folksy pop of Down So Low and the sunshine 60s We Will Be Together, a country-folk Through Leaves, 70s soul rippling through Got To Have You and The Power of Love (which manages to fuse She's Not There and You're So Vain in the opening bars) and laid back bossa nova sways for Since You've Been Away and Got To Have You.

As cool as fragrant deodorant in a sultry cityscape, ably assisted by multi-instrumentalist producer Patrick Sansone, Jackson brings a delicate sexy perspiration to the title track and the wind chiming summery float down the stream acoustic delicacy of Blue Forever Mine, while The Invitation opens on a chugging train rhythm before skipping its heels down some jazzman's boulevard, chiffon scarf fluttering in the breeze behind her.

She may flit through an assortment of easy on the ear sophisticated musical genres, but what remains consistent is the fluidity of her vocals, forming themselves to whatever shapes the music demands and the urban romance concerns of her lyrics, whether she's talking about the power of love to provide meaning, the thrill of that first encounter or the melancholy of hearts healing. She's currently without a European deal, so perhaps someone could just start whispering things like 'the next Norah Jones' and then stand back to avoid the rush. "


Trifecta Studios newsletter
October 2, 2003

"She's conquered the winsome Beatlesque pop thing, the Latin Lite Bacharach thing, the heartwrenching Nick Drake thing and now there's a little garage rock showing its fangs in the nooks and crannies of her intricate, super smart songwriting. "

Mackenzie Wilson
Venus Magazine June 2003

JENIFER JACKSON
So High
(Bar/None)

"Singer Songwriter Jenifer Jackson must have adored Carole King's Tapestry and Joni Mitchell's Blue during their chart reign in the 1970's. Soft, warm threads of those two famous albums echo throughout Jackson's soulful third release, So High, introducing a refreshing new confidence for her most honest effort yet. Jackson's first disc for Bar None, So High offers a breathless sophistication while exploring the endless circle of love, and luckily without pretense.

"One listen to the chiming folk sounds of "Down So Low" will reel you into Jackson's wistful soundscape. Her smooth vocals are sexy, swaggering along to old-school funk and contemporary R&B on "Got to Have You." The title track is just as raw with its layered slinky guitar work, but Jackson also goes pop. From the delicate acoustics of "Blue Forever Mine" and the Astrud Gilberto-style "End of August," one cannot help but be mesmerized by Jackson's musicianship. An impressive tight production allows each song to just breathe. Like Burt Bacharach , Jenifer Jackson found her groove this time around. It's high time you went lookin' for yours, too."


CROSSROADS-- FRANCE

JENIFER JACKSON -So High            [translation]
(Bar/None Records -- import)

"Aux dernières nouvelles, la new yorkaise Jenifer Jackson cherchait encore un label en Europe. Fichtre ! Dieu sait si sa musique mérite d'être distribuée par ici : quelques écoutes de ce disque suffisent à convaincre qu'il s'agit là d'une artiste supérieure. Sorte de pop-soul riche et subtile, combinant intelligence et sensualité, So High est idéal pour se ressourcer en vibrations bienfaitrices. De la musique pour le corps et l'esprit. Soulignons donc les mélodies, la volupté, la douceur à fleur de peau, et le fait que cette musique a une chair, une texture souple et organique. Le morceau-titre, par exemple, est d'une puissance qui ne se mesure pas en décibels et fait preuve d'une majestueuse aisance. Pour que cette musique passe si bien, sans accroc et sans que l'on s'ennuie deux secondes, il faut du savoir-faire. Que Jenifer soit fille de musicien (Julian Jackson, sphère jazz) ne doit pas y être étranger. Son chant, expert et d'une rare justesse, s'apparente à un souffle, fluide et léger comme de la buée. Et il faut ici saluer l'indispensable Patrick Sansone, qui orchestre et malaxe les instruments à lui tout seul ou presque (on a aussi pu entendre Pat Sansone sur les derniers Josh Rouse, Joseph Arthur, Swan Dive, et The Autumn Defense, son groupe avec John Stirratt, le bassiste de Wilco).
A l'écoute des onze titres de cet album, que je me refuse de décortiquer tant tout y est affaire d'harmonie et d'osmose, je ne constaterai qu'une chose : c'est un des meilleurs disques de l'année. Il semble que tous les disques de Jenifer Jackson diffusent un même état de grâce : Birds, l'album précédent, plus intimiste et berceur, était déjà sublime. Mais quel label en France, bon sang, pourra s'en apercevoir ?

***** à ranger non loin de Curtis Mayfield et Marvin Gaye "


Clay Steakley
The Nashville Rage May 29, 2003

Jenifer Jackson
So High
Bar/None

"Whether she's wheeling through a breezy Burt Bacharach-styled arrangement, vocally fluttering between Rickie Lee Jones and Edith Piaf, or writing with the determined but delicate clarity of Joni Mitchell, Jenifer Jackson is an artist possessed of complexity and grace.

"So High, her third record (and first for Bar/None), is such an unusual and self-possessed recording that comparing her too closely to the above artists does her a disservice. Jackson doesn't mimic them. She doesn't particularly try to sound like anybody but herself. But, as evidenced by the staggering array of styles so expertly tackled in this 11-song release, she has absorbed, and in some cases improved upon, most of the finest aspects of delicious, opulent pop.

"The bubbly, Swan Dive-reminiscent opener The Power of Love sets the stage for a sumptuous record. Jackson, producer Pat Sansone (The Autumn Defense, Andrew Bird, Josh Rouse) and an outstanding band create a thick, dark, captivating sonic world - something that would translate visually to a cross between film noir and a classic Blue Note record cover.

"The record unfolds into a series of emotionally complicated and musically breathtaking songs that range from the hushed, high-plains whisper of Since You've Been Away to the sprawling, sexy grooves of Got to Have You and the standout So High. Somebody needs to kiss Sansone on the mouth for that bass line. A sugary Brill Building-style jaunt through We Will Be Together and the woozy, Astrud Gilberto-reminiscent Look Down round out this nigh-on-perfect set.

"The most difficult part of writing about a record like So High is that there aren't enough superlatives to truly express just how damn good this music is. Go buy it."


Daniela Maestro
SPLENDID May 19, 2003

"Being a solo singer/songwriter is a tricky business. There's a constant collective inspiration that comes from being in a band, from having a group of minds meet and blend, that often lends itself to a greater level of enterprise and inventiveness. All too often, solo artists seem to sit themselves smack dab in the middle of one style and stay there forever, unable to break the mold from which their initial work emerged, due either to an apparent lack of confidence or to an unhealthy attachment to the comfortable familiarity of repetition. Happily for us, Jenifer Jackson has raised the bar for solo artists by refusing to fall prey to either sin, and by daring to try on as many hats as she can in one sitting. The courageous, genre-bending, exploratory variety on So High is a pure, shining example of what a solo artist can accomplish when she insists on bending the rules. So High resonates with a bold confidence, a taste for innovation and a whole realm of wide-ranging influences. "The Power of Love" and "Down So Low" ring with the charm of '60s psychedelia and Europop, the melodies reminiscent of Good Humour-era St. Etienne, replete with accordions, tambourines and sunny synth riffs. While "We Will Be Together" has a folksy, early '50s pop beat and a lucid base of acoustic harmonies, "Got To Have You" heads straight into '70s soul territory, channelling the spirit of Curtis Mayfield through a slow-burning, smouldering funk ballad. "Blue Forever Mine" is a spare, touching piece, as subtly emotive and tenderly delivered as Nick Drake's most pensive, melancholy odes, and the infectiously catchy "Since You've Been Away" glides along on a breeze of bossa nova rhythms and jazz-inflected synths. Jackson's delicate strumming is loose and mutable, blending seamlessly with the inspired work of her accompanying musicians. Jackson's vocal performance is flawless, understated and elegant. Her vocal dexterity is truly mesmerizing -- she sails easily from sweet innocence to tragic malaise, then turns around and serves up a convincing dose of potent enmity or magnetic sensuality the very next minute. Her lyrics are simple, heartfelt and revealing; matched with the soaring silk of her voice and the sheer, brilliant diversity of the compositions, they'll send you into a veritable swoon. Watch out -- even if it doesn't grab you the first time, you will eventually find yourself addicted to So High."

Jackson Griffith
Sacramento Bee, May 1st, 2003

"The third album from New York City-based singer-songwriter Jenifer Jackson is almost too much of a good thing..."more >>>

Tony Peyser
Santa Monica Mirror, April 9-15, 2003

"Who's going to now inch above the radar in the post-Norah Jones era? For openers, alternative popster Jenifer Jackson. So High (her second album) manages to alternately remind me of Joni Mitchell, Laura Nyro and Aimee Mann as well as Astrud Gilberto whose "The Girl From Ipanema" introduced Americans in the early 1960s to the bossa nova. The opening song, "The Power Of Love," even manages to work in a Zombies vibe or three with its swoony vision of new romance. Like Jones and "Don't Know Why" songwriter Jesse Harris, Jackson has gigged at New York City's tiny but hugely influential club, The Living Room. Talents like these are reshaping not just the living room but the whole house that houses all that's right with contemporary music. With Beatles-esque tracks like "Down So Low," the Big Apple-based Jackson's latest effort will make you feel So High."

Marina Galazidis
WomanRock.com March 2003

Intro to interview:
The Light at the End of the Tunnel:
Jenifer Jackson

"Genuine, experienced, and versatile, Jenifer Jackson is a singer/songwriter whose music seeks out the most fundamental human experiences: love, melancholy, redemption, and joy. With a collage of genres deftly arranged and reinvented through her unique vision, she erases borders and speaks to a broad audience of music lovers. Jenifer's new album, So High (Bar None), is peppered with instrumental surprises (note church bells) and has an enduring lyrical quality. "


John Swensen
UPI after JJ's Tonic show April 9. 2003

"I can't believe how great she is. I'm hard to impress when it comes to singer songwriters. She belongs with some of the best I've ever heard. There's something ineffible -- magical -- about her, about the timbre of her voice, like a gorgeous alto saxophone. This may sound ridiculous, but when she sings "We Will Be Together" she sound like nothing so much as Jackson Browne. Other times I'm hearing Astrid Gilberto, but it's all her, all her. If Norah Jones hadn't won all those Grammies I would swear that she is too good to make it big."

Seth Wiley
Gravy Jounal

"Genius unbound. Huge overseas, and for good reason. She's lime sherbet on a hot Wednesday night. She's a new pair of sneakers just out of the box, with orthotic supports and fat laces. If this Jenifer Jackson designed wallpaper, I'd move to a bigger place just to cover it with her papery musings. Think of the best thing in the world."

PASTE
Q2 2003

"Diversity defines the recording. Traces of Burt Bacharach, Barry White, Lucinda Wlliams and Carole King can be heard throughout, as can bossa nova, accordions, moog synths and guitars, both acoustic and psychedelic. As a singer-songwriter Jackson disarms listeners with heartfelt musings and experiences, while her honest, bright and engaging voice effortlessly moves from ethereal to forceful as the songs demand."

Noel Murray
in The Onion

Joining the growing ranks of Burt Bacharach disciples takes skill, but not vision, and if giddy young orchestrators aren't careful, their heaping of strings, bells, and reeds can become a thick syrup with no pancake to coat. New York "pretty pop" purveyor Jenifer Jackson avoids this trap. Like similarly inclined players Swan Dive, The Pernice Brothers, and Josh Rouse, Jackson is a songwriter first, a sweetener second. On her second album So High, Jackson lays down 11 sketches of urban romance that alternate joyous delirium with desperate loneliness, all laced with persistent feelings of need. Structurally, the songs hew to a kind of coffeehouse folk-pop, with delicate melodies, fussed-over bridges, and choruses that would sound pleasant if played solely on acoustic guitar. But they sound better with the sophisticated instrumentation provided by Jackson and producer Pat Sansone (a Rouse sideman who's also worked with Swan Dive and Andrew Bird's Bowl Of Fire). The songs on So High are roomy, pieced together by Jackson's idle strumming, jots of jazz piano and Brasilia-influenced percussion, and a warming blanket of accordion hum and string-mimicking electric keyboards. Over all this, the singer-songwriter tries on different personae, acting tough and earthy one minute (as on the punchy title track, where Jackson comes on like Chrissie Hynde circa Learning To Crawl) and fragile and ethereal the next (as on the shimmering closer, "Blue Forever Mine"). The centerpiece of So High is the seven-and-a-half-minute "Got To Have You," which coils like a Joni Mitchell confessional while sporting a smooth jazz coating that would suit Anita Baker. Behind the musicianship's mature poses, Jackson reveals a strong personality, full of emphatic comments on how a person can be so crazy in love that it's almost terrifying, due to the fear of inevitable loss.

SPEX
01-02/2002

JENIFER JACKSON
Birds
Ulftone/edel contraire


"Which brings us to a record that touched me like almost no other this year. Jenifer Jackson is a New York based singer/songwriter and this is her third record release. Her insistent, yet soft-spoken and yearning voice leads us through ten perfect and two just a little less brilliant songs, while her smart band explores the entire spectrum of traditional songwriter music with instinctive sureness. The dreamy gentleness of this performance might make you overhear how perfectly it was played and arranged, and I'm not talking craftsmanship here only. Fact is: arrangements like these don't grow on every next street corner, this is, among other things ... work. Whoever among you readers has tried something similar somewhen, will be mad with joy over the apparent effortlessness of the music on this CD, those moments, when 2 years of rehearsal work turn into bright, golden light.

I didn't quite understand the promotion ideas of the record company, though: give away free copies of an Italian version of the gorgeous single "Mercury, the Sun and Moon" to owners of hip Italian restaurants and promote the album through an "in-crowd" hairdresser company, that operates nationwide. Goodness, why don't they just send Jenifer Jackson on tour with Emmylou Harris or Nina Persson? I bet those ladies would have a lot to talk between shows."

Frank Goodman
in PURE MUSIC, December 2002

SO HIGH --- Jenifer Jackson

"...The way she sings makes the most cynical dreamer want to fall in love again, the high risk notwithstanding. Get out the vintage synths and keyboards, vibes and glockenspiel, church bells, bells of every kind, tambourine, cheesy drum machines, many stringed instruments and a handful of amazing musicians.
Most songwriters would kill (or should) for the melodic sense and spirit of this urban angel. She's got beautiful music inside her. More and more I see that not all songwriters have beautiful music inside them. Many have a lot of words and feelings, perhaps some should find a partner for the music or try to write some stories...but the songs of Jenifer Jackson never fail to open my heart and allow a feeling of vulnerable wonder to reappear. No, I don't understand it--but I do feel it, every time, and am again surprised. It's so easy to shut down, little by little, so I'm ever grateful to the artists that crack me back open.
We can only hope that it reaches the right ears in the U.S. or Japan, in Europe, Australia or whatever culture is hip enough to make this superb artist into the star we already consider her to be."


Kojiro Nakoji
in Crossbeat Magazine, May 2001
This is second album by the female singer songwriter from New York City. She is already popular as a musician who toured with Jules Shear, and as a cowriter of "Starfish" by Swandive. This is how they may have first met, the producer is Brad Jones. Her original moody folk rock style, however, has not changed on this album. Songs are middle tempo ballad with the sounds of country and pop. Her serene vocals and quietly refined taste produce her own unique atmosphere. The beautiful melody slowly grows on you.

translated from the Japanese by Eiko


Larry O. Dean
in Amplifier Magazine
Under producer Brad Jones' tasteful tutelage, singer-songwriter Jackson crafts twelve gentle yet probing folk-rock tunes. A strong emotional underpinning softly tugs listeners through a myriad of feelings -- melancholia, resignation, learnedness. Akin to a female Nick Drake, Jackson strums and sings with restrained yet pensive passion.

Geraint Jones
in the May 2001 issue of Comes With A Smile
Arriving as unexpectedly as an unseasonably warm, sunny day, Jenifer Jackson's 'Birds' could be the soundtrack to how I'd like every day to be. The album encompasses several styles, which are all woven together seamlessly and include 60s pop, jazz, country and folk. With superb support from some of the best musicians that non-mainstream Nashville has to offer, such as Brad Jones, who also produced the album, Will Kimbrough and Josh Rouse, who contributes backing vocals, Jenifer Jackson's enchanting voice, sounding at times like a more whispered Mary Lou Lord, is allowed to gently glide and soar before eventually enveloping you under its spell.

Brad Jones production adds subtlety and space to the proceedings allowing the diverse instrumentation and deceptively simple arrangement to make a lasting impression. From the vibes used on opener The Fade via the eastern mantra meets Nancy Sinatra kitsch pop of Mercury, The Sun And Moon to the pedal steel infused twang of What You Said and all points in between 'Birds' is the kind of album that helps the woes of the world to melt away.

Dreamy and as comforting as a lazy, hazy summer afternoon, for the duration of its all too brief 45 minutes, 'Birds' makes the world seem a much better place.


Markus Naegele
says in Musikexpress
"Like Aimee Mann or Elliott Smith, Jenifer excells at the art of eliciting that certain something out of small, unassuming songs."

Puremusic.comsays:
"Like a flower bursting through the sidewalk, the timeless songs of Jenifer Jackson softly compel those with eyes and ears left to stop and witness beauty."

Variety says:
of Jenifer's soundtrack of Daydream Believer (Best Dramatic Feature, Slamdance 2001):
"...Jenifer Jackson's propulsive song score injects a convincing directness into familiar scenes."

Stewart Mason
in The Weekly Alibi (Albuquerque NM)
Jenifer Jackson
Birds
(Parasol)
four stars (out of five)

Regular readers of this column might have noticed my affinity for female singers with wispy, breathy, high-pitched voices. Maybe it's a result of my childhood exposure to Astrud Gilberto and high school obsession with the Cocteau Twins, who knows. But it undoubtedly helps explain why I adore Jenifer Jackson's new CD.

Jackson, a New York City-based singer/songwriter, is the daughter of legendary jazz radio DJ Julian Jackson, and her vocal style owes a lot to the school of jazz vocals exemplified by Gilberto, Blossom Dearie and Chet Baker: clear, vibrato-free and with a spun-glass delicacy that gives the lightest songs on the album, like the early-Joni Mitchell-style "The First Day of Winter," a shivery beauty. Imagine if Mazzy Star's Hope Sandoval or the Softies' Rose Melberg could actually sing properly.

Musically, however, Birds has only a few jazzy elements--a Milt Jacksonish vibes solo here, a bossa nova beat there--in its mostly folk-rock-based, largely acoustic songs. "Trouble Fire," with its expressive harmony vocals by Alibi fave Josh Rouse, and the pure-country "What You Said" are more indicative: droning Hammond organ, slippery pedal steel, shimmering overdubbed acoustic guitars and brushed drums dominate these 12 songs. Producer Brad Jones gives the album a hazy, miasmic quality, especially on the near-psychedelic "Mercury, The Sun and Moon," that adds an ethereal edge to even the earthiest and most plainspoken songs. The results suggestwhat Hazeldine would have sounded like if they'd brought their moody, dark pop instincts to the foreground of their songs, or perhaps an alt-country Michael Penn. Dreamy and sensual and surprisingly substantial, Birds is an unexpected, genre-mixing surprise.


Entertainment Weekly suggests:
"if you like the hushed vocals of the cowboy junkies and mazzy star, swoop down on jenifer jackson's graceful birds."

www.puremusic.com
Spellbinding. This haunting NYC artist weaves a web of deep sensuality, and of beauty. She is the kind of siren that enchanted legendary sailors, who lost their bearings and dashed their crafts against rocky shores.

I'd already heard this record a number of times, so I thought while I listened anew, that I would do a couple of things around the house. By the middle of the first song, I was sitting on the couch with the speakers roaring, my head in my hands, lost in a reverie on the wonder of woman.

Her melodies are vast, dreamy sculptures that take you right out of your body. Her singing is so smooth and inviting, you need only allow yourself to float away to where that voice is leading you. Every song seems to end too soon, and you start to fall, and then you hit another air current, and climb again.

I have a weakness for all grooves resembling the bossa nova, and I love the way she writes in this feel, but it's only a turn of the diamond in her hand. I'm always in search of pop music that's suitable for adults, and she's high on my list. If your life is too busy, and you need someone to calm you down, here's a record that will touch you in a place where it all makes sense again.


Michaela Majoun
of WXPN fm, Philadelphia
Jenifer Jackson's lovely melodies and contained vocal style are a perfect counterpoint to a passion that smolders beneath these songs of love and longing. The arrangements gorgeously enhance the atmosphere, at once spare and full of emotion, of heartache endured and expressed. This is a very classy album.

John Porter
of "Performing Songwriter"
[Slowly Bright] is the second record of her's I've been lucky enough to hear. Like her first release (Love Lane), this is a solid effort that will be appreciated by those fortunate enough to spend time with it. She has a penchant for airy pop melodies, and a smokey vocal styling to color them."

John Schoenberger
of "The Album Network"
I know singer/songwriters are a dime a dozen in Manhattan, but occasionally one comes along who captures the attention and imagination of the entire community --and the latest is Jenifer Jackson. The almost naive quality to her music adds a genuine sincerity to her songs that's not often found and several key New York City players jumped at the chance to help out Jackson by contributing to her album. Time Out New York wrote, "Her strong melodies, subtle arrangements and pure vocal approach render her recordings almost instantly classic." (February 2000)

Rita Houston
Program Director at WFUVfm
It's hard to describe what JJ is--musical comparisons all fall short. You'll just have to listen to this one for yourself. Her songs are beautiful, subtle, romantic, and timeless. AND she can sing. We love JJ at WFUV!

Colin Helms
(CMJ Magazine)
There's a particularly soft, almost naïve sense of beauty to Jenifer Jackson's songs that belies the sophistication of their craftsmanship and presentation. Characterized by the gentle ring of Jackson's hollowbody Gibson guitar and by the tasteful semi-jazz of her backing band, Slowly Bright consists of finely detailed compositions that look to the classiest of pop influences for inspiration --Burt Bacharach, Joni Mitchell, Chet Baker, etc.

Jackson writes high, sweet melodies that often test the limits of her voice, but her pure, straight-ahead singing style effectively plays up the simple elegance of her arrangements and the intimately revealing nature of her lyrics.


Andy Waltzer
of WFMUfm says of Jenifer Jackson's Slowly Bright:
"Perfect pop tunes made heavenly by an airy, ethereal, Astrud Gilberto meets Burt Bacharach quality. Slowly Bright sets you to sway dreamily of past loves, or loves to be. The ideal soundtrack to your next swoon."

Neill C. Furio
Feeling blue? Then this record's for you.
Because Jenifer's practically cobalt.
And though the sun's shining, it shadows
The shimmering sadness in Jenifer's singing.
Which grows with each glisten more
Lullabied and wholly night.

Feeling blithe? Then this record's yours too.
Because Jenifer's certainly crystal.
And though the moon's rising, it spotlights
The wistful elation in Jenifer's writing.
Which glows with each listen more
Beautiful and Slowly Bright.