Raleigh, NC singer-songwriter Jeanne Jolly has a voice that you could only be born with. A naturally rich instrument whose nuances were brought out – rather than boxed – through classical voice training. There’s nothing mannered in her expression as she soars through the eight new recordings – and seven original songs – of her latest solo release. Produced by her longtime collaborator Chris Boerner and self-released on Jolly’s Ramblewood imprint, the album shows the sort of care and sophistication one can layer into projects that don’t have a major label’s commercial ambitions loitering in the control room.
The eight-piece studio band includes pedal steel player Allyn Jones, keyboardist James Wallace, Bon Iver drummer Matt McCaughan, and Megafun’s Phil and Brad Cook. Together they explore country, soul, and even a bit of Memphis with the horn chart and solace of “Gypsy Skin.” Jolly’s vocals reach past the notes (which for someone of her abilities, are table stakes) to hit every emotion dead center. She soars from intimacy to strength in a single note as she wrestles with the fatalism of “California” and declares her need on “Boundless Love.” The latter’s soulful background vocals – all supplied by Jolly – are particularly mesmerizing.
Whether or not her writing is autobiographical, Jolly’s songs of rekindled memories (“Matches and Gasoline” “Circles in the Sky”), rediscovery (“Without You”) and admiration (“Good Man”) ring true. It’s rare to hear someone with such technical control turn notes blue without feeling as if they’re calibrating just how blue to let them turn. But Jolly sings from an emotional place and her voice responds to what she’s seeking to express; it’s the sort of connection between soul and voice you hear in the singing of Patty Loveless, Bonnie Raitt and Joni Mitchell, and well worth hearing for yourself. [©2015 Hyperbolium]