At The Helm Records
Heartbreakers and Tearjerkers from The new Princess of Country Music.
One of the more regularly proficient homes of British Country Music is At The Hem Records from Brighton; on the SE Coast of England and as far from the Honky-Tonks of rural America as you can imagine.
Ironically, their latest release is from Karen Jonas a native of Fredericksburg in Virginia and what a joy it is.
The title track Country Songs opens the disc and anyone hearing it will immediately be transported to those heady days when Patsy Cline and Kitty Wells ruled the airwaves. The pedal-steel and Tim Bray’s Twangtastic guitar are straight outta the mean streets of Bakersfield; but the way Karen Jonas sings her whip-smart words; with a definite warble to her voice is truly wonderful.
Regular readers will know that I have a mental-collection of cool and quirky lyrics; and this song about a disintegrating love affair; with Karen wanting her man to love and understand her ‘like Dwight Yoakam does’ is cooler than a penguins bum; and when she talks about ‘Dwights jeans being tighter than hers’ I was reminded of a conversation I once heard between my wife and a friend about the friend’s new beau!
While most of the songs here are about lost loves and emotional roller-coasters; Karen still makes her characters strong, with a swagger in their two-stepping wiggle down the High Street.
The Fair Shake and Why Don’t You Stay? Are like chalk and cheese but both prove that point exactly.
Ophelia on the other hand is a rip-roaring angry Honk-Tonker that denim and plaid wearing feminist Country women can use as a rallying cry; should they choose to; but I can imagine men punching the air during the chorus too.
Keep Your Hands to Yourself is another foot-tappin’ Old-School Country Rocker too and like quite a few songs here; reminded me of the young and feisty Mary Chapin Carpenter in the way Karen tells a story and combines the traditional sounds of our youth with the fizz and pep of Tom Petty and maybe Dwight Yoakam himself.
Karen Jonas is another jewel that is hidden away in the back of the music box and deserves her day in the sunshine; especially with that opening song; which could and should be covered by Laura Cantrell ASAP but also for the beautifully fragile Wasting Time; which seamlessly crosses the dividing line between Country and Alt. Country without sounding specifically like either category.
Probably because of budgetary constraints this album was records ‘as live’ in as few takes as possible but the sound quality; especially the way Karen’s softly expressive voice has been captured deserves a round of applause from the gallery too.
Released October 14th 2016