Butter. Karen Jonas
'Yellow Brick Road', the song that opens Karen Jonas' new album Butter, may have an intro that sounds fairly familiar, as soon as Karen Jonas starts singing, my day brightens like little else. My favourite country-singer has a new album. I noticed I simply felt happy just from that thought after she announced the release on Twitter.
This blog is five years and a few months old today and Karen Jonas features for the fourth time with an album. It all started with duo The Parlor Soldiers and now her third solo album.
If anything Karen Jonas flexes her musical muscles on Butter. The material ranges from country rockers to country ballads and big band jazz banter tinged songs to a Grace Slick infused post-hippie song. It can't be long before a lot more people will become aware of her and more importantly her music.
Butter opens with 'Yellow Brick Road' and I am alright. The slightly poppy melody, the clear lead guitar sounds of Tim Bray, the warm Hammond B3 sound. On top of that all the firm, slightly rough voice of Karen Jonas creeps into my ears to settle there, tickling my musical preferences. There are days I settle for less, I can assure you. Next up is a country ballad, called 'My Sweet Arsonist', so soft and sweet. What 'Wild Horses' is to The Rolling Stones, this song can become to Karen Jonas. It has a beautiful melody, so relaxed, sung so well and a killer chorus. And, should you be wondering, this song is about sex people (and love). Yes, don't be shocked, nearly all of us have a sweet arsonist and if you have not, I surely hope you will find him/her/neutral very soon. A complement for this original textual pun is due here. Just compare Kings of Leon's biggest hit's title. Hah!
If anything this album shows how Karen Jonas balances her life between being a mother (of four!),a musician and loving, longing partner. She sings about how she takes care of her kids in 'Butter', a jazzy song reaching back to days long past musically, just listen to the raucous horns starting the song, telling about trying to be a mother of old and living fully in the now with all responsibilities that come with that. Jonas plays circa 150 shows a year with her musical partner Tim Bray. I don't know about his family circumstances, but I'm sure hardly anyone asks him how he keeps everything up and running at home. They will ask Karen Jonas regularly. Well, with 'Butter' she provides you with an answer should you be wondering. Go, Karen! Homemade cooking and straight whiskey, the two sides of here life caught in four words.
Three songs and three totally different musical starting points. Butter does not keep this level of originality. Probably luckily so, as at a certain point only opera and EDM remain as unique musical genres. Joking aside, Karen Jonas manages to keep up her level of quality. Easily it seems. With an expert band behind her, the sound of this record is full and warm. Recorded in a studio five minutes from her home in Fredericksburg, Virginia, Jonas, Bray and co-producer Jeff Covert have found the right sound for the songs. Yes, that can involve a strong electric guitar, rocking out loudly at the end of a ballad like 'Gospel Of The Road'. Or reaching back to the mood producer Ron Frangipane created on Grace Slick's 'Dreams'. Yes, dreamy, yet so solid you could drive a truck into the sound, wrecking the truck.
Throughout the album the mood keeps changing. With the exception of the country song 'Mamma's First Rodeo' each change is exceptional. Karen Jonas not only confirms her status as my favourite country singer, she clearly manages to set a next step in her career. She is growing and growing, becoming better by the album. Beautiful ballads like 'Dance With Me' and 'The Circus' only continue to confirm what I have written before, while 'Mr. Wonka', again provides the topsy-turvy aspect of change.
Let me end with a confession of something I am aware of for some time now: I am simply in love with Karen Jonas' singing. There you have it.
You can listen to and buy Butter here:
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