The Alternate Root
As singers go, somewhere between the smooth sophistication of Sarah McLachlan and the majestic authenticity of Eilen Jewell you'll find Jenny Whiteley. After more than a decade of Juno awards, relentless touring and successful albums Whiteley's latest effort, Forgive or Forget should place the Canadian singer/songwriter on the radar screen of music aficionados across the globe who have yet to discover her. This ten song masterpiece features nine originals and one very well placed cover; the beautiful 'Raining in my Heart' penned by Felice and Boudleaux Bryant and originally recorded by Buddy Holly. It is here that the album sets its tone, leading the listener on a Sunday morning stroll through Jenny Whiteley's neighborhood. The flowers are in bloom, the trees are swaying in the breeze, love is in the air and there's even that house or two where you hang your head and walk a little faster without looking up. good singers can sing and make you feel, great singers can sing and aren't adverse to making you feel a little uncomfortable at times.
Somewhere along Jenny Whiteley's journey her path crossed with the award winning producer and guitarist Steve Dawson and this, their third collaboration for Dawson's Black Hen label, is the result of that fruitful relationship. Dawson has the Midas touch when it comes to roots music. His ability to meld the vocalist, the band and the song into breathtaking music is becoming legendary.
'There Was Love', the album's second track, has a Badfinger-esque undertone that makes the perfect bed for Whiteley's soothing tale of love's eternal struggles. "What did you do to make her leave, but wear her heart upon your sleeve.." Whiteley asks. The song swoons around the mix of guitars, Moog synthesizer and Wurlitzer playing off of Whiteley's cabaret tones like a river breeze blowing through a lace curtain.
As the clouds roll in and the shadows grow shorter, the album shows the depth of it's character on 'Truth and the Eyes of the Dead'. Whiteley reveals a darker side of herself lyrically, "...why don't you get out while you can, you can never be my man... I know that there's nothing left anymore but the truth and the eyes of the dead." It's a haunting dirge that illuminates the vivid spectrum within the producer/performer relationship.
The songs on Forgive or Forget bounce through a variety of moods and tones with each one a departure from the previous while building anticipation for the next. That's what makes this such an enjoyable album to listen to; it's well written, beautifully performed and brilliantly produced from one song to the next.
Forgive or Forget is a roots music fan's ten course dinner. Full of flavors that compliment the imagination of the writer, the diversity of the singer and skill of the chef (producer) who put it all together. I suggest a Mark West Russian River Cabernet to enhance the experience. Enjoy.