Jenny has been a favourite since 2001 when I met her at Wintergrass. I had previously seen and heard her with a bluegrass band called Heartbreak Hill but it was only listening to Jenny’s debut album that she reached out and grabbed me. This one is a keeper, but very different from that largely narrative album. Give it a listen; I think you’ll be pleased. (Originally published in the Red Deer Advocate, April 2, 2010)
Jenny Whiteley Forgive or Forget Black Hen Music
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 ten 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 a country-pop song.
An able collaborator, Whiteley mostly keeps things in-house this time out writing the vast majority of the album herself while sharing songs with husband Joey Wright (a featured performer on various stringed 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.
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