Off Center Album Review

Karen Jonas, Lucky Revisited

Every now and then you run across a recording that's so audacious that all you can do is applaud its chutzpa. Such a work is the 4th release from Karen Jonas. This album is sass, poise, and one helluva voice. Jonas gives us stripped down versions of songs from her back pages, some new material, and an unapologetic turn-back-the-calendar approach to country music before it became slick and safe. Her new version of "Lucky" is honed to a dangerous edge. Jonas sings it as if it's part of the soundtrack of a gritty film noir film set in a dusty Texas town filled with desperate people. She positively eviscerates the Golden Fifties myth in "Butter." She frames her video with an old-style TV screen and melts the song in suggestive nastiness whose sugary sprinkles are like a diaphanous dress waiting to be unzipped. Hers is a feminist country music, even when it evokes the past. It doesn't get any more throwback stylistically than "Ophelia" but then again, few past country stars could have gotten away with a lyric such as when a man calls you a whore, go on and the find the closest door…walk out. Want an old-time weepy? "Country Songs" is about a girl who hated country music until she came of age and had her heart broken: So thank you for teaching me to sing country songs/For making me so sad I want to sing along. She completes her stroll through yesteryear with two excellent covers–one of Dylan's "It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry," and Hank Williams' "Lovesick Blues." ★★★★