In The Clear
Wolf Island Records SuzanneJarvie.com
A very impressive recording, In The Clear is the second album from Toronto’s Suzanne Jarvie. Mining personal traumas and challenges for inspiration (and, perhaps, restorative healing), and filtering these through interests in literature, parables, and creative wonderings, Jarvie has created a lyrically dense collection of songs simultaneously intriguing and freeing.
Producer Hugh Christopher Brown complements Jarvie’s songs with various keys (Wurlitzer, Hammond, and more) while bringing in a few recognizable names to make feature contributions, including The Abrams Brothers, Fervor Coulee (and Wolf Island) favourite Hadley McCall Thackston for the aggressive “Point Blank,” and Joey Wright (mandolin) on several tracks. Mickey Raphael contributes harmonica to “The Core.” The result is a highly effective, layered effect, with Jarvie’s powerful voice flowing over and through various instrumental structures. I could listen to her daily for the next year and never become fatigued for the experience.
Jarvie’s songs are not short stories, but they certainly communicate impressions and emotions as acutely as finely crafted, concise writing may. “Lonesome switchback mountain road, she drove out carrying no load” (“Headless Rider”) is as fine an opening couplet as I’ve heard for an album, and this sense of adventure, challenge, and even desperation continues across In The Clear’s ten tracks.
From the young mother perishing during childbirth (“The Core,”) to the supernatural (or is it extra-terrestrial) interloper of “One It Finds” and those suffering addiction (“You Shall Not Pass) Jarvie’s characters are sufficiently fully-realized for those of us who appreciate keen storytelling though song, but there remains sufficient space for interpretation. The expansive and yearning “Trilogy” is a worthy coda to a masterfully envisioned and executed album.
Lovely music that works best as a whole, In The Clear’s songs reverberate within this listener’s spiritual and intellectual core. As did Nanci Griffith in previous decades, Jarvie pulls us close, sharing perspectives not imagined; let the mysteries be.
Key tracks: those mentioned, “All In Place” and “Carpenter Bay.”