First off, an apology to Lynn Jackson and her team. I mistakenly thought this album was being released in September, and therefore set aside writing about Lionheart for months. Imagine my surprise and embarrassment to notice this morning a May 22 release date on the accompanying one-sheet.
Although already and repeatedly well-established, it is always a bit of a dart to confirm one’s idiocy. Calendars are complicated things, and Covid-19 has largely made them extraneous to normal operations. Still, My Bad.
Kitchener, Ontario’s Lynn Jackson has been releasing albums for a good while now, since 2004 as near as I can determine via inter-connected web stalking. I’ve heard most of them, and a couple recent ones—Songs of Rain, Snow, & Remembering and Follow that Fire—are listed on my annual ‘favourites’ lists. I like what she does.
Lionheart is now my favourite.
Vocally Jackson seems to found a new level. Her voice slinks out of the speakers, augmented in places by Don Featherstone’s saxophone (“Outcast” and “The Sound of Everything (for Leonard Cohen)”) and handclaps, woos, and exhalations elsewhere (“Lionheart.”) Brandi Carlile may come to mind as one listens to the riches of Lionheart, as might Canada’s other rootsy Lynn(e)s, Miles and Hanson. During “Cobwebs” and “Sometimes It’s Okay,” Jackson impressively struts with Chrissie Hynde leather-clad confidence. Having experienced a half-dozen Jackson albums over the years, these are but echoes of reference for the uninitiated; as always, Jackson’s vocal spark and melodic personality are most apparent.
When Jackson sings a declaration of independence, “Give me back all those years, give me back everything that could’ve been, give me back all that youth, give me back everything I ever intended to be,” (“Cobwebs”) one steps back: the floor is hers.
The album’s single cover, John Lennon’s timeless “Working Class Hero,” serves as Lionheart’sandJackson’s capstone. Accompanied by violin duo Alison Corbett and Wendy Wright, Jackson brings everything together:
As soon as you’re born they make you feel small,
By giving you no time instead of it all
‘Til the pain is so big you’re nothing at all
A working class hero is something to be…
Lynn Jackson takes those words to heart. Americana organically embraces the folk, country, blues, sacred, and rock influences of generations, and Lionheart reflects the impact these have had on Jackson. The other-worldliness of “Flight” hints toward the Staples Singers, “Outcast” southern country soul, “Everything and Nothing” troubadour folk, and “Sometimes” ethereal Kate Bush poetic rock. An expedition of time and sound, Lionheart is unified by tasteful instrumental augmentation and precise, elevated vocal expression.
Mention needs to be made of Jonny Sauders’ drumming throughout the album. He finds just the right spaces to fill with his tasteful augmentation. While there is electric guitar on several tracks, played by Jackson, John Stuart, and Rob Deyman, the overall aural canvas of Lionheart is acoustic.
One admires the artist who continually evolves while maintaining the exceptional ability to remain connected to their audience. Nanci Griffith did so for over thirty years, Rosanne Cash, Loretta Lynn, and Laurie Lewis even longer. Lynn Jackson is well on her way, and with Lionheart she brings herself into the revered company of those who have guided her journey.