Some music seems to require a certain kind of weather to work its magic. Jenny Whiteley’s latest, Forgive Or Forget, probably wouldn’t be an ideal choice for a sunny day at the beach – there’s a pervasive air of wistful melancholy about the project that’s ideally suited to a rainy day, one given to reflection and rumination.
Whiteley, a member of a musical clan of enormous achievement and excellence in Canada, has delivered a quiet and unassuming masterpiece. Here she works once again with producer and man-of-many instruments Steve Dawson, owner of Black Hen Records and purveyor of exceptional soundscapes regardless of instrument (He’s a master at a bewildering array). His deft touch and atmospheric production provide an ideal backdrop for Whiteley’s often somber but never bitter explorations of life and love.
Indeed, Forgive Or Forget is an apt title, with Whiteley concerned here with relationships and their aftermath. The lone cover, a pensive reading of Felice and Boudreaux Bryant’s “Raining In My Heart” (a tune made famous by, of all people, Buddy Holly) kicks things off. “There Was Love” follows, an objective yet heartfelt acknowledgment that love is bound to hurt us all at some point. The gently shuffling “Day Without Words” effectively sums up the emptiness that’s left when love gives way to loneliness. “Final Season” examines the other side – the loneliness and detachment within a doomed relationship. “You say it’s better than nothing/but nothing’s looking better every day”, she sings, aided and abetted by Tim O’Brien’s haunting harmonies. Things aren’t all gloomy, though. “Ripple Effect” is breezy and bouncy, and the moody “Kind Mirror,” punctuated by snarling swirls of electric guitar, approaches aging with wry acceptance tempered with trepidation. And the closer, “Half Life,” sounds much like a promise of sunshine as love’s dark clouds give way to hope.
Whiteley’s voice seems to get richer with each outing, and here she exhibits masterful control, navigating with ease that emotional territory between resignation and resolve that comes only when one’s lived and loved and learned from all the tears and laughter. With songs that seem to sink deeper with each listen and superb support from a first-rate cast, Forgive Or Forget is a wise and wonderful collection. Very highly recommended – when the weather’s right!