by Jennifer Crook
At last - a new CD from Jennifer Crook! It's been a long time since 2008's 'A Few Small Things.' Has it been worth the wait? The short answer is: definitely! As promised earlier, here's a little bit more of the detail which brought me to the positive conclusion.
Albums need a strong start; a good opener to catch the ears and the imagination, setting the scene for what is to follow. 'Catching Butterflies' succeeds admirably. The opening notes augment the title, summoning visions of fluttering butterflies before the bittersweet, delicate lyrics drift in. The song is the first of a number on 'Merry-Go-Round' to feature conflicting emotions of times past; of what might have been but never quite was.
'And don't you take it as read
All the things we've never said...'
It's a moving song; it made me sit up and take notice. A well-judged opener.
A check of the track credits reveals several items of interest. Jennifer's harp is well to the fore, as is a hammered dulcimer (as played here by Maclaine Colston). Boo Hewerdine (producer of the CD) is on acoustic guitar and Mellotron, Kevin McGuire on double bass and the backing vocals are provided by Dorie Jackson and Eddie Reader. All of the above - plus some other notable additions - reappear over the course of the CD.
I like the way that Bethany Porter's cello introduces the second track, 'When Time Stood Still'. The music builds to represent a ticking clock, while the lyrics deal with a little more loss and longing.
'What do I put in the place of the hole in my heart?
The one that was perfectly shaped for you from the start...'
A big change of style occurs in the fourth track, with Americana giant Darrell Scott duetting on 'Cowboys'. As the title suggests, it's probably more County than Folk but it's still a ballad, featuring just two voices and two acoustic guitars. Darrell's gravelly tone contrasts so well with Jennifer's that it left me wanting to hear more by way of collaboration.
Two more songs stood out for me. 'Coming Down the Road' is more outwardly positive than most of the other tracks, with the 'sweet' sentiment going unchallenged by a 'bitter' counterpoint.
'It might be just around the corner
Or a change of heart in the night;
It might be the one you've been holding
For years that suddenly comes into sight...'
And finally, 'One Little Song' brings things to a delightful conclusion with vocals by Jennifer and Eddie Reader backed only by the former's harp.
Full Track List
When Time Stood Still
Coming Down the Road
Probably the Rain
She Wore Red
One Little Song
'Baltimore' and 'Probably the Rain' are credited to 'Boo Hewerdine/Jennifer Crook' and 'One Little Song' was written by Gillian Welch, but all of the others were written by Jennifer herself - an impressive achievement.
The songs of Jennifer Crook deserve to be known by a wider audience. 'Merry-Go-Round' provides an excellent and easily accessible starting point to her musical world.
For further details, including tour dates and how to buy 'Merry-Go-Round', please pop along to Jennifer's new website.