Jenny Whiteley (2000) review


From the extensive Fervor Coulee archives

J WhiteleyJenny Whiteley Jenny Whiteley Self-released (2000)

Jenny Whiteley is a treasure for roots music fans.

Her debut solo album is a recording of rare qualities. She successfully blends elements of traditional, hurting country with folk boldness and bluegrass virtuosity.

Whiteley was recently honoured at the Juno Awards for best roots/traditional solo recording, and for once the industry got it right.

The album begins with the depressing image of an outsider who “lives alone in the old family home” with “a dog that’ll chase you back down the road.” The tasteful playing of a band featuring her brother Dan on mandolin perfectly captures the spirit of a person caught up in his own self-fulfilling image.

Whiteley displays remarkable abilities for creating characters in a few well-crafted lines. The protagonist of “Lived It Up” reflects on a past where a “cheating heart has brought me the trouble I’ve found; I lived it up and I can’t live it down.”

Equally comfortable assuming the roles of male and female characters, Whiteley, in both “Gloria” and “Train Goin’ West,” successfully captures the longing, bravado, and regret known to everyone.

Comprised largely of originals, these cuts stack up favourably with those written by Emmylou Harris for her recent Red Dirt Girl.

Whiteley has included three brilliant songs either written or co-written by Canadian alternative country legend Fred Eaglesmith. “Soda Machine,” from Eaglesmith’s Drive-In Movie album, has a stark, Cowboy Junkies sound emphasized by atmospheric acoustic bass. “’75” is simply a brilliant song waiting for a screenplay; Whiteley and her co-writers capture the exuberance and self assurance of teenagers while recognizing the inevitable folly of their confidence.

Jenny Whiteley is a major talent. Her Juno Award must help attract attention to the radio power brokers of this country. This is the most impressive collection of original material I’ve stumbled across in months.

(originally published March 16, 2001 Red Deer Advocate) Side note: This was the first album placed in my hand by an artist; I appreciated Jenny’s confidence in me at Wintergrass ’01, and continue to thank all artists who get music into my hands. Additional side note: Shortly after publishing this piece, I pitched a Jenny Whiteley mini-feature to No Depression. Check their website. Can’t find it? Yes, it was rejected.

 

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