Red Deer Advocate
Ontario’s Jenny Whiteley isn’t afraid to take risks while evoking emotional connections through her music.
A two-time Juno Award-winner for Roots Album of the Year, Whiteley patiently crafts albums with the assistance of producer Steve Dawson and top-drawer session instrumentalists.
Forgive or Forget is her fourth effort since 2001. With each album, Whiteley has evolved and this time out has created a mature, multi-layered and vastly entertaining album.
Forgive or Forget’s only non-original, Boudleaux and Felice Bryant’s Raining in My Heart sets the pace, a collection of mid-tempo ballads that sway more than swing. This album is gentler than anything Whiteley has previously attempted, extending the explorations of Dear. The 10 songs continue her career-long examination of love, regret and loss.
Whiteley’s voice remains her strongest asset. She continually expands her vocal repertoire, this time injecting a soft bluesy quality to her phrasing. Despite imagining a loss of significance, singing “I can’t live without you,” Whiteley sounds like she’s enjoying the reflection of Ripple Effects, the first of three songs that picks up into anything resembling country-pop.
An able collaborator, Whiteley mostly keeps things in-house this time, writing the majority of the album herself while sharing songs with husband Joey Wright (a featured performer on various instruments) and Chris Coole.
The album’s signature song is Cold Cold Kisses, maybe the best song you’ll hear this month. Whiteley’s approach to the song is sultry, and the song’s warmth belies its title. The instrumentation from producer Steve Dawson provides countrypolitan touches without descending into parody. On this number, as elsewhere, drummer John Raham’s contributions are ideal.
Jenny Whiteley doesn’t get the attention that many of her contemporaries garner. With Forgive or Forget, Whiteley again demonstrates that there are few who can match her for producing balanced, appealing albums that engage diverse listeners.