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Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Reviews:: Jenn Grant - Orchestra For The Moon

I like Jenn Grant's debut album Orchestra For The Moon, and unlike most of my rambling, just north of coherent reviews, I believe I can tell you why rather succinctly. It's not just because Jenn has a beautiful voice (she does indeed - alternately soaring and hushed and breaking in all the right places), but it's how she uses it. There are many female artists with lovely voices, and often they produce an album full of lovely, yet quiet and reserved songs. This is certainly fine, but albums like this usually have a hard time holding my attention. On the other hand, Orchestra For The Moon has an array of musically diverse songs, many uptempo in nature, which find Jenn subtlely working and shaping her voice to perfectly fit each track.

In this very well-done cover story on Jenn in The Coast, there is a quote from Jill Barber saying Jenn's voice is "like an instrument". I think this is actually a more succint way of saying what I was trying to say in the first paragraph. Jenn fills her songs with vocal ad-libs like "Oh"s, "Ooo"s, and "La-la"s, and like Hall's ab-libs at the end of Out Of Touch, they are far from gratitous. They are not forced and fit into each song like an instrument, adding to the richness of the song. And yes, I realize that comparing Jenn Grant to Darryl Hall is perhaps forced, but when I see any oppertunity to work Hall & Oates into a review, I do it. That's how I roll.

Like many of the recent releases to come out of these parts, Jenn has recruited plenty of Halifax's finest musical talent to help her on this album. Orchestra For The Moon was recorded at CBC's Studio H in Halifax, and was produced by the Heavy Blinkers' David Christensen and Jason MacIsaac. Matt Mays, Rose Cousins, Jill Barber, and Danny Ledwell all contibuted vocals to the album, and many of Halifax's finest musicians also helped out by playing a wide array of instruments. These contributions certainly certainly play a large role, but Jenn is certainly the star of the show.

Those aforementioned guest vocalists, and Jenn's backing band The Night Painters join her on the rollicking first single, Dreamer which is an excellent example of her voice as instrument. There are a couple verses in the song, but the bulk of the song finds Jen singing "you dreamer" in more enjoyable ways than you would think possible. Dancin' In The Wind is a good example of how musical this album is. It starts with only the sound of a music box, but breaks into a full bodied track of guitar, drums, and even some Parisian sounding accordian.

Unique New York pulses with an rapid kick-snare-snyth bassline combo but Jenn still sings in a measured way, holding on to words for an extra couple beats. Just a catchy, beautiful song. Considering Jenn's bio opens with the sentence "26 years ago Jenn was born in a brown house in PEI.", I feel safe in saying the Ron Sexsmith duet In A Brown House is autobiographical in nature. The sparse arrangement, just Jenn over a guitar joined by Mr. Sexsmith on the chorus, adds an aching poigniancy to this heartfelt song, which I'm guessing, is about her parents seperation. Things pick right back up again with the plinking organ and bouncy quarter-life hopefullness of Don't Worry Baby.

The strings give At The Finish Line a big, sweeping feel, while Jenn manages to infuse the song with equal touches of heartbreak and optimism. Rose Cousins and Danny Ledwell join Jenn on the mournful Rainy Day, which I believe features the harp as it's only instrument (other than Jenn's voice of course). If so, this is now my favorite harp-based song.

One last interesting tidbit before we wrap up comes also from the Coast article I mentioned earlier. Jenn disscusses her time spent in Clayton Park (on Willowbend court, right behind the street Petra grew up on) after moving to Halifax from PEI:

"Our neighbours were really weird—you know, really bad kids living in our neighbourhood and stuff. We did not fit in there at all. Our next-door neighbour robbed a bank one day, and this kid tried to hit me in the head with a baseball bat—he was trying to hit the budgie bird on my shoulder but he almost got me; this guy ran over me on his bicycle in my backyard when I was tanning—it was awful. It was awful!"

I don't think she cherishes her time in Clayton Park as much as Joel Plaskett, so don't bank on her setting any of her future concept albums there. But that's fine by me, after Orchestra For The Moon, I'll be listening to Jenn's future albums no matter where they're set. Jenn's likeablity and charm flow through the speakers in abundance, and when you add that to the musicality and beautiful imagery on this album, you have a sure winner. If you haven't checked out Jenn or this album yet, I encourage you to do so.

stream:: Dreamer

stream:: Make It Home Tonight

See Jenn on tour:
May 3- On the Verge-Wolfville, NS- cd release w/Tanya Davis
May 4- Capitol, Fredercton NB Cd release w/Tanya Davis
May 11- Ch'Town Cd Release @ The Guild 8pm
May 12- Souris, PEI CD Release @ The Acorn Room
6 Jun 2007 Shaika Cafe (solo) w/Tanya Davis- Montreal
13 Jun 2007 The Casbah w/Tanya Davis, Dan Griffin- Hamilton
14 Jun 2007 Jimmy Jazz w/Tanya Davis -Guelph
15 Jun 2007 The Horseshoe w/Royal Wood, Tanya Davis- Toronto
16 Jun 2007 Barn Party! w/Sarah Hallman, Tanya Davis- Ottawa
17 Jun 2007 The Blacksheep Inn w/Tanya Davis- Quebec
July 1- Lunenberg Bandstand

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