Janet Simpson
Safe Distance
Cornelius Chapel Records

More Country Pathos and Darkness Than You Could Ever Dream Of

It’s been a mad couple of weeks here at RMHQ making us a tad behind in the review stakes; while I have the other hacks urgently beavering away with forthcoming releases (and there are some doozies!) I’m trying to play catch up with some we’ve over looked.
Janet Simpson is a brand new name to me; but as her album is on our recently discovered and absolutely fabulous Cornelius Chapel Records I went straight to it, 6 weeks ago, and fell in love ……. only for other teasers to come along and make me forget Janet’s charms….. until last night.
There’s a lot of a lot of things going on in this album; starting with the edgy Country opener Nashville Girls; which could easily find a comfortable home on an Ashley MacBryde or Carlene Carter album; and it’s a similar story with Reno too ……. razor sharp lyrics and a modern twist on Twang; yet in between we get Slip; which is a whole lot introspective and swoonsome straight from the Bobbie Gentry play book.
That’s the joy here; Janet Simpson takes the Traditional Country Music ‘sound’ and puts her own indelible (occasionally edgy) stamp on it; making her songs Uber-Contemporary as she sings about and for women in suburbia all over the world.
Ain’t Nobody Looking simply oozes the ‘hurt’ only a woman can feel inside and outside a relationship; and it’s played out through a cinematic backdrop too.
Double Lines sort of treads a similar path; but stopped me dead in my tracks the third time I heard it ….. phew ……. just when you thought you were safe out there; Janet Simpson has produced an Modern Gothic Melodrama that will send a shiver down your spine.
In between she uses her smoky and smouldering voice to sing about love and lovers in a way that will leave you weak at the knees; none more so than Awe and Wonder, the initially twee Black Turns Blue will leave you wide eyed and open mouthed when you first hear it too.
Towards the end there’s a song called Silverman Mountain which is pretty much as dark as modern Country Music gets and the limited combination of Janet’s acoustic guitar and a bottle-neck guitar make it quite scary and still pertinent too.
There’s even a song here that I never thought I’d hear from a woman’s perspective and certainly not in public; which is why the passionate and powerful I Was Wrong is such a brave song; taking Tom Petty as her guide, Janet Simpson punches way above her weight on this exceptional Alt. Country belter.
While she predominantly sings about the darker side of romance; with break-ups and ‘looking back’ on what went wrong, to the fore …… this is a Country Album after all; Janet finds things in the nooks and crannies that makes her stand out from a very packed crowd.
Which brings me to the two songs I can’t slide a cigarette paper between in my quest to find a Favourite Song.
The finale, Wrecked is Country-Folk Deluxe, but with more pathos than you could ever dream of; and in the accompanying notes Nick Lowe is mentioned as an inspiration and I can hear that in every line of this beautiful tune.
I’ll give you a clue as to how good Janet’s articulate songwriting is; here’s the chorus ….

“Maybe I’m wrecked, but I’m not too far gone
Maybe the edge is right where I belong
I’m not a fighter but I’m a dancer…
It might just be …. your grave I’m dancing on.”

The title track Safe Distance is the other and sounds like a supergroup made up of Lucinda, Elizabeth Cook and the Chicks when they came from Dixie singing a lost Tammy Wynette song at the Ryman ….. yep; and that’s not even half the story ….. try it; you’ll like it too.
So; Janet Simpson?
Bizarrely this is her first album under her own name since her debut in 1997; but in between she’s been a key player in numerous bands of many different persuasions and is the cornerstone in duo Timber too, alongside Will Stewart; but if my opinion is worth anything; I doubt we will wait as many months as we have years for a follow up.

Released March 19th 2021


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