Jamie Anderson,
Listen
(Tsunami, 2001)

Jamie Anderson's new CD Listen demands that we do just that. Arresting from the opening bars, Anderson sounds not only confident but positively brazen. If she wanted to create a memorable and radio-friendly recording, she has certainly succeeded. Still, Listen didn't fully succeed for me as a listener.

Kara Barnard produced the album, which was recorded at Overdub Lane in Durham, N.C. Wes Lachot engineered the project, which has live energy and professional polish. Anderson contributes acoustic guitar and electric guitars and is ably backed by an all-woman band that includes Kara Barnard, Leigh Peterson and Jennifer Kirk. There isn't a false note played, the arrangements are excellent in a contemporary folk-rock style, and the mix is fine.

Anderson's vocals are front and center. Eager and frank, she uses innuendo-laden lyrics from the word go, with a gutsy vocal style that belies the soft and fuzzy photograph on the front cover. Many songs have sexual content -- which is refreshing because she's writing about two women -- and several have political agendas that I agree with.

Overall though, I had the feeling that Anderson was preaching a bit too much, even if she was preaching to the converted. At times the songs felt a bit strident. I would have liked to hear more of the optimism expressed in Karen Taylor-Good's "Much Better View of the Moon," the album's only cover tune, and the sweetness and vulnerability of Anderson's "Maybe You Miss Me."

It's true that Jamie has a strong sense of humour, but sometimes I found it overly cute (as in "Potato Chips"). At their best, her lyrics are funny, insightful and not at all clichˇ ("I miss the dog more than I miss you," "I wonder what this dress would look like on your floor"). Also, I think she'd be wise to watch out for earnest, on-the-nose lyrics, especially when they're political ("if it's legal that's good for you, some of us want that too") and to ensure that every melody and chorus is truly memorable (and transforming).

I believe that Anderson has the talent to make the whole world take notice, not just a niche market. But when I listened (three times) I couldn't help but feel that I was left out of the club. With stronger songs, that could all change, and Anderson could change the world.

[ by Joy McKay ]
Rambles: 30 March 2002



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