Two more great women songwriters have dominated my listening lately.
Jen Cloher – Jen Cloher (album rating – really, really, really good)
In my blogpost In Honor of Women’s History Month, I wrote about the awesome indie rocker Courtney Barnett. It was while researching Courtney that I learned about her partner and labelmate, Jen Cloher. I love it when one new artist leads you directly to another.
Courtney Barnett had been Jen Cloher’s guitar player and apparently Jen Cloher is Courtney’s partner and musical mentor. Their styles have a fair amount in common but of course are each unique unto themselves. For instance I definitely hear more Patty Smith in Jen’s music. So take one part Courtney and one part Patty Smith, and maybe sprinkle in some punky Sleater Kinney and you’ll at least be in the right ball park.
This is not Jen’s first album. So it’s interesting that it is self-titled. But it’s such a personal statement that it makes sense. It’s about her relationship with songwriting, her place in the music industry and her relationship with Courtney.
Shoegazers is one of the harder rockers on the album. It expresses Jen’s frustration with the music industry and also with Courtney’s success
To me, it’s surprising that she blasts reviewers. It seems unlikely that she has received many bad reviews.
Regional Echo is softer with a beautiful melody complimented with subtle expressive lead guitar. Jen seems resigned to her accept her level of success.
The album closes with the beautifully subtle acoustic Dark Art.
Really simple. Really nice.
Zoe Muth – World of Strangers - (album rating - particularly excellent)
What a great surprise this album was for me. I had never heard of Zoe, but was looking for some interesting vinyl from roots label Signature Sounds. So I found Zoe. Great stuff. The album straddles the lines between country, alt-country, and folk. She recorded it soon after moving from Seattle to Austin. In Austin she assembled a top shelf collection of Austin musicians to help her bring these songs in directions beyond their country roots.
Zoe immediately reminded me of Iris Dement, but with less twang in her voice. Further listens have brought Mary Gauthier to mind. Mary is known for writing heart wrenching songs (see Tearjerkers Pt1 blog post) about hobos and addicts and other travelled people with interesting lives.
The drifter in Annabelle could be straight from a Mary Gauthier song.
April Fool (Ronnie Lane cover) is the most ambitious song musically. It features a great melody, Garthish accordion, some nasty twang guitar and a rocking cello.
Somebody I Know is simply beautiful. It starts softly with seemingly almost random single note guitar and piano notes backed by ethereal organ. It shifts into a beautiful piano based melody that builds to a crescendo to ask an intimate question.
-Alan Likes Music