Operation Every Band - SXSW Review

Karen Jonas – “Butter” 

SXSW 2019 - OEB Score: 7; Popularity Index: 2

Pairs Well With… Dolly Parton, Nora Jones, Iris Dement


Karen Jonas’ voice on her new album “Butter,” sounds like, well, like … . .  No, no, no. I won’t go there, although to be fully honest, I had initially planned, to paraphrase Johnny Carson, to take a good metaphor and beat it to death. But it turns out that every single review of this album has already gone there, done that. So, it suffices to say that Jonas’ voice is rich, sultry, and occasionally playful, without dipping into country, saccharine sweet.  “Butter” is her third album and while still rooted in country music, she liberally borrows from other genres – Americana, barroom soul, and the blues – providing much needed variety. For example, “Mama’s First Rodeo” and the softer “My Sweet Arsonist” use gentle humor and lots of pedal steel channeling Dolly Parton. “Gospel of the Road” is organ-backed barroom soul, and the title track opens with a blast of horns but lands in a jazzy torch song groove. The lyrics reflect her wit and thoughtfulness, and fully embrace her life as a full-time mother of four who strives to find a balance between her music career and her family.  The title track, about a hardworking (and cooking) mother who still drinks whisky captures her music and her life well.  So does the video for the song which alternatives between party glam shots and kitchen cameos with her kids, cooking with, well  … flour, sugar, and some other ingredient. (DZ)

Review - Take Effect Reviews

KAREN JONAS

Butter

Self-Released, 2018

9/10

Listen to Butter

Though folk and country might be the biggest contributions to the formula Karen Jonas uses, she’s also got a penchant for blues, jazz and ragtime on this very retro and fun 10 tunes that yield a very unique brand of Americana from the Virginia songstress.

Butter lets organs set the mood on the opening “Yellow Brick Road”, where sweet and expressively vocals work well with the bright, warm instrumentation, and from there things ache with the pedal steel of “My Sweet Arsonist”, where a more introspective atmosphere arrives.

As the albums moves on, things get more exploratory with the horns and soulful “Butter”, the breezy country melody of “Gospel Of The Road”, and throwback shuffle of “Oh Icarus” that sounds like it could be playing in a speakeasy 100 years ago. All of the varied influences come together on the jazzy, big band, carnivalesque sounds of “Mr. Wonka”, which really displays what Jonas is capable of with her varied craft.

An extremely eclectic and accomplished album, Jonas is daring enough to incorporate a lot of elements often absent from Americana, and together with her flawless pipes our only real option is to be left in awe.

Travels well with: Ryan Culwell- Flatlands; Ruby Boots- Don’t Talk About It

The Circus Video Premiere

Video Premiere: Karen Jonas “The Circus”

From her third album, Butter, released earlier this year, comes this deceptively simple song from Karen Jonas.  As she says, it’s a song “reflecting on the absurdity of the life of a full-time touring musician and the myriad characters one meets along the way from the perspective of a mother of four.”  Very much in the classic country mould with some added folk, blues and the like, it’s quietly excellent.


Butter for The Boot Guest Room Sessions

KJ and Tim made this live BUTTER video for The Boot’s Guest Room Sessions - enjoy!

For The Boot's September Guest Room Sessions installment, singer-songwriter Karen Jonas performs her song "Butter" alongside guitarist Tim Bray. Readers can press play above to watch.

Jonas chose an entirely fitting setting in which to film her Guest Room Sessions clip: a kitchen -- but not her own. ""Butter" has a fun, retro-domestic vibe, about a mama who’s got it all put together, so we shot the video in Tim’s kitchen (because it’s cleaner and more stylish than mine!)" Jonas explains to The Boot.

With its vintage instrumentation and Jonas' striking vocals, this performance of "Butter" is equal parts polished and intimate. In this story, mama "loves straight whiskey" and makes fine Manhattans and martinis, turning the strait-laced identity of motherhood on its head.

"Butter" is the title track of Jonas' new album, released in June. Its subject matter is deeply familiar to Jonas, who has four kids of her own at home. “Whether I’m finishing up a gig at midnight or getting pounced on by my kids at 6:30AM, I usually feel like my life is a circus,” she admits. “So I started writing songs about my circus.” Bray, whom Jonas describes as her "guitarist, musical business partner and all-around best friend" for the past five years, joined Jonas for nighttime recording sessions at Wally Cleaver's Recording Studio in her hometown of Fredericksburg, Va., for the project.

Butter is out now on all major streaming platforms, and fans can catch Jonas out on the road this fall. Visit KarenJonasMusic.com for more details.