Leading off with a sensitive and beautiful version of the Bryants' Raining in My Heart, Jenny Whiteley presents her latest, a collection otherwise completely original and extremely well matrixed by Steve Dawson, who pushes her voice way up front where it should be, then creates a three-dimensional backdrop of spare and unhurried embroidering (himself playing God only knows how many instruments in the backing band as well). At times, I was reminded of the attentions given a Van Dyke Parks release, but Dawson and Whiteley have imbued Forgive or Forget with tones and nuances that sit with the halcyon period when Brian Wilson, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Bob Dylan, the Band, and others were all trying to outshine one another without blowing the barn doors off. Very often, all it takes is a slight shading shift to make all the difference in the world.
That regard produces a CD of extremely clever touches even Robbie Robertson would grin wryly upon. Americana tends to be Whiteley's homeground, but she's augmented it at times with intelligent sparseness and later the sort of ornamentation and embellishments T-Bone Burnett has from time to time enriched many excellent musicians with—Kottke's unbelievably good Time Steps as just one luminescent example. Of course, then there's her turn to an Emmylou Harris side in Final Season, not to mention the capacity to tell affecting stories of happiness and lament. In Truth and the Eyes of the Dead (man, wotta title!), she stares down hypocrisy, delivering a firm rejection made all the more deadly and searing by a fiery Dawson solo on guitar.
It's obvious Whiteley's a folk singer who refused to remain in the Greenwich Village / Soho busking mode and kept crafting her way on paths not frequently trod, resulting in a release blending all the above with a bit of Eagles, Jackson Browne, Dolly Parton, Meryn Cadell, and an assortment of others never aped but always kept close to heart. That, then, provides a potpourri…but only for those who have paid attention closely enough to understand.