Jackie Frost,
(Courthouse, 2005)

The recurrent theme on Jackie Frost's Calliope is well stated on "Away We Go," the fifth track on the album: "Hi ho, away we go. Round and round the merry-go-round of love." In all the songs, time and love chase each other, and the real essence of life is in danger of being ignored.

"Hell West of Nowhere," a country-bluegrass song penned by Daniel Hughes, offers a geographic cure for a new truer life. The references to the fresh mountain air, trains, coal dust, tall trees and fertile ground anchor the story in rural Americana. Frost's folkie voice is supported by an introspective and nostalgic country-jazz. "Tall Tree" also looks at a different time and place -- the innocence of schooldays past.

So does "Brighter Days," which is a meditation on acknowledging that a relationship has ended. Unlike the other fine compositions by Hughes on this album, "Brighter Days" has too many cliched images for my taste, but the haunting wistful quality of Frost's voice makes it work and many listeners will like it. The visual comparisons in "Feels Like Love" work better with its nicely baroque tone and fine symbolic images. Here again, and in "Hard Road to Travel," the banjo and mandolin are worth hearing. The very lovely, catchy and original "I Dream of You" features some excellent banjo work by Richard Ward, and the restive lyrics of "Names and Faces," an indie-jazz number, matches the somberness of the music.

In "Meet Me at the Church," a commitment is planned in the musical and lyrical dark. In "Maybe Tomorrow," a lover in a relationship on hiatus awaits a phone call from an estranged beloved who may have learned to live without her.

"Maybe My Love" is the only song in which the leader singer is a male. Daniel Clarke's voice came as a surprise, but it reminded me that the band is called the Jackie Frost Trio, after all. The song seems to be an answer to all the feminine pleading before it. It's a gentler, kinder kiss-off song, and it would have made a good finale for both these reasons -- but "Hard Road to Travel" works better. It's in the woman's voice and it's a little more hopeful. The commitment to a new life and the possibility of a new love shows hope and nostalgia never fail. This is a great album to score a love affair to!

Jackie Frost supplies the vocals and acoustic guitar. She's supported by Daniel Clark on piano, acoustic guitar and vocals, Curtis Fye and Billy Lux on acoustic bass, Malcolm Pulley on mandolin, Robby Sinclair on drums, Richard Ward on vocals and electric banjo. Songs are composed by Daniel Clarke, Daniel Hughes, Jackie Frost and Malcolm Pulley.

- Rambles
written by Carole McDonnell
published 3 September 2005

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