Jenny McCormick - English Country Garden
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Jenny McCormick
English Country Garden
Self-released, UK

Jenny McCormick is a storyteller, as the best folk singers often are. The album opens with the excellent "Go From My Window" where the female protagonist tells her lover exactly that. However, itís more a sexual warning. She wants Ďa harbouringí and undoubtedly so does he, yet the harmonics and whispers tell us that this lady is not to be messed with. The lover would do better and take her words at face value. There is a wise use of atmospheric word painting going on as the double bass, although sparse, sets the tone as the creaking and groaning trees camouflaging her window.

The second track, "Donít Be Cruel," makes the comparisons with Kate Rusby understandable. Here the real Northern vowels come out, more so than when McCormick speaks. Although the scene depicted in the song is very English country, with haystacks and horizons, the banjo and harmonica introduce an American folk and country twang which is to quietly resonate throughout her repertoire.

Similarly, "The House Carpenter" is very much derived from English balladry, but the lead guitar licks are essentially American. Again, the woody double bass, creaking and groaning, is like a prevalent warning underneath. For McCormick, itís not about virtuoso playing or clever lyrics. Itís about telling it like it is, and emphasising meanings through subtle musicianship.

The highlight of the album is also the highlight of her live set, "Hey Joe." Its country swing touches on Lynyrd Skynyrd, as the bass is no longer premeditating and ominous but instead playfully skips between notes. Most fascinating, though, is the way in which the singer intonates the title line. McCormickís voice soars between the most unexpected pitches so that it is impossible to sing along for the first few listens at least.

The album also has a naval theme, with a few of the songs conveying tales of woe from the sailors and their lovers they leave behind. Here, the music gently lilts and her breath bounces as over waves. The songs on English Country Garden are often desperately sad, but somehow you know she is not a dark, brooding Morrissey type. Jenny McCormick is just someone who can empathise well with her subject matter. - Sophie Parkes

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Available from cdRoots


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