Thank you Malcolm Carter for this great review of my new album SHINE!
“On this showing Vincent doesn’t just ‘Shine’ but she is also one of the brightest stars out there.”
“Shine’ is Wiltshire singer-songwriter Jess Vincent’s third album but the first to wing its way to this particular spot. Not that it’s the first time her voice has been heard here, as Jess helped out with backing vocals on the excellent ‘Leaves And Feathers’ album by Reg Meuross from a couple of years back. To be honest the main attraction on hearing this album was the involvement of Meuross. He produced ‘Shine’, lent his vocals and his considerable skills on guitar, banjo and dulcimer to the songs and co-wrote five of the songs featured with Jess, while Jess wrote the remainder Jess alone. So Reg Meuross got us in but make no mistake. For all his contributions this is very much a Jess Vincent album, one that will have many searching out her previous two albums.
There are so many female artists in the folk/pop genre just now, and many are not getting the exposure they deserve simply because there is so much talent out there. Almost every week another singer-songwriter comes along who impresses and occasionally there’s one artist that you just know has that extra special ‘something’. It might well have taken until her third album and involvement with Reg Meuross to get our attention, but now Jess Vincent is another name to add to that ever-growing list of artists who can offer just that little bit more than their contemporaries.
Firstly it can be stated that Jess Vincent is a remarkable songwriter. Given that Meuross co-wrote almost half the songs on ‘Shine’, that initially had this writer thinking that the Meuross co-writes would be the standouts on ‘Shine’. It was the first mistake.
The opening title track was co-written with Meuross (who also plays harmonica on the song) and is a jaunty, irresistible banjo-fuelled pop/folk song that should have been ringing out of a radio near you all last summer. The following two tracks are, however, solo Jess Vincent compositions cut from entirely different cloth to the opening track and which are just as, if not more so, successful and impressive. The first of these, ‘Love Me True’, is a yearning love song, Vincent’s crystal-clear vocals sending shivers down the spine. At times her voice soars and when Meuross joins in on backing vocals the warmth the duo create vocally is one you can almost reach out and touch. It’s a gorgeous song that clocks in at three and a half minutes but feels like it’s only lasted a minute. All good things end too soon and this is one song that you could hear all day and never tire of.
The following ‘New Amsterdam’ is the second Vincent solo composition, and one where she drops all her pop leanings and shows that she can not only tackle what sounds like a traditional centuries-old folk song and win but also write them as well. The song is about Olive Thomas who was, apparently, one of Hollywood’s first major silent movie stars who was poisoned in 1920. It is said that her ghost haunts the New Amsterdam Theatre to this day.
It’s not the only song where Jess takes inspiration from past events or people. ‘Billy Tipton’s Waltz’, the closing track, tells the tale of Dorothy Lucille the Oklahoma-born jazz pianist and saxophonist who lived her life as a man, the brushed drums and piano backing again complementing Vincent’s pure vocally perfectly. At times, although never losing sight of her own voice, Vincent sounds a little like Nanci Griffith, but while Griffith has one of those love or loathe voices there’s enough variety in the way Vincent uses her vocal skills for her to appeal to a very wide audience.
‘Shackles and Chains’ is yet another solo write by Vincent which shows that, while Meuross is the obvious choice for producer and for all his prowess on various instruments, when it comes down to the actual songs Vincent is more than capable of going solo.
That said the contribution from all concerned on ‘Shine’ is way above average. Marcel Rose provides guitar, Mike Cosgrave’s piano, accordion and trumpet adorns many of the songs and Beth Porter’s cello playing also adds colour on the songs she makes an appearance on. The backbone of Pete Willis on bass and Graham Brown behind the drum kit (except for the title track when Simon Edwards and Dominic Bailey respectively do the same duties) should also receive mention.
‘Raining’ is a song that, although it was inspired by one of those days when you just wish you’d stayed in bed, is far from depressing, Meuross’s banjo and Beth Porter’s cello (this instrument seems to be making something of a comeback; it’s played an important part in many of this writer’s favourite albums this year) both add texture to the song.
‘Here and Now’ is currently the highlight of the album. It’s song about losing someone close and hard to listen to without all those that were once close by and who are no longer here making an appearance in the listener’s head for the duration of the song, and then some. Again Beth Porter’s cello adds to the beautiful sadness of the song. It’s truly heartbreaking and an outstanding vocal performance from Vincent.
On this showing Vincent doesn’t just ‘Shine’ but she is also one of the brightest stars out there.”
LINK TO FULL REVIEW