Very much in the easy rolling honky-tonk style for which she won an Ameripolitan Awards nomination, Yellow Brick Road, the opening track on the Virginia-born Karen Jonas’ third album ‘Butter’ is a tad misleading. While both the pedal steel laden Mama’s First Rodeoand the softer My Sweet Arsonist hark to the easy on the ear country of Dolly Parton, Gospel of the Road is organ backed barroom soul and Dance With Me is a slow waltzing old school country-soul ballad, there’s also a heady helping of jazz and blues.
The shift comes with the arrival of the title track, which opens with a blast of horns and slides into a fat, brassy groove and bluesy guitar solo, slinking its way through the tale of a whiskey drinking mama who also happens to be a hardworking mother and a dab hand in the kitchen, making cooking with butter sound incredibly sexy.
Elsewhere, capturing the same sultry mood, Kamikaze Love is bluesy slow burn, Oh Icarus again brings a jazzy snap with its muted trumpet and skittering guitar runs while the whimsical Mr Wonka heads to the carousel for a swaying retro sassy sashay that, name-dropping Humphrey Bogart and Cary Grant in her put down of some preening smarmer, has an old-school show-tune style.
From the fairground it comes to a close at The Circus, echoes of early ingénue Melanie to the vocals, backed again by Dustin Brandt on organ and Jay Starling’s piano, as, underlining the idea that the Yellow Brock Road may not be paved with gold and Oz may prove a disappointment, she unfolds an I want to go home metaphor about discovering the world’s not the life on the flying trapeze she’d imagined and that “the Ringmaster’s kind of a creep” and “Everyone here has a mask on.”
It’s something of a downbeat ending, but, very much a reflection of juggling life as a mother of four as well as a professional musician trying to deal with the industry, this is an ultimately affirmative and self-affirming album. Spread the word.