Jenifer Jackson has many strengths, but foremost among them may be her eclectic style. Over the course of her critically acclaimed career, the often astonishing diversity of her songwriting has called on her to sing as a wounded innocent, a seductive soulstress, or an avatar of a million kinds of loneliness, sometimes wistful, sometimes hopeful, sometimes absolutely crushing. Jackson's new album, The Day Happiness Found Me is by far her most intimate and optimistic, disarmingly direct and simple, yet rich with the same subtle shades that have characterized her previous work, from her 1999 full-length debut, Slowly Bright, to the lush, live-in-the-studio 2007 release The Outskirts of a Giant Town. Many of the songs on that album watch and observe from an outsider's perspective; here, the point of view is reversed. It's as if Jackson is singing to you in her living room, soft and low, sometimes crystalline and reassuring, sometimes with a mysterious, misty allure. It's music to get lost in. Jackson knows what solace means: so much of her catalog searches for it, and here she's found it and, in typical Jenifer Jackson fashion, isn't content to savor it all by herself: it's like her present to all of us.
The unselfconscious joy of Bring on the Night, with its irresistible, singalong chorus, is so visceral that it's easy to lose sight of how masterfully sparse the arrangement is. Ditto Baby Did You Think That Love Would Find a Way and its exuberant Philly soul groove. Many of the songs here snatch victory from the jaws of defeat: the album's closing track, The Beauty in the Emptying quietly and matter-of-factly finds beauty in letting go and embracing change; In Spring, with its gentle, bucolic sway, pushes forward rather than looking back in regret. Jackson also embraces paradoxes: one of the album's strongest tracks, Groundward, contrasts the image of a world hurtling violently out of control against Jackson's austere, suspenseful fingerpicking. The nocturne Whispering Words is simultaneously direct and opaque, while Maybe, juxtaposes eerie woodland imagery over a brooding Nick Drake-esque folk-pop melody. Yet Jackson remains undeterred: "Maybe this is as much sense as life will make," she suggests, resolute despite it all.
Chris McQueen's agile, understated electric guitar leads and fills and Chris Jones' impeccably tasteful, often minimalist upright bass complement the mood and lyrics here, with Jason Mercer handling the bass on The Beauty in the Emptying and the ridiculously catchy, vintage Nashville-flavored waltz, What Makes Love Stay. Jackson - always a potent song stylist, whether singing her own material, or classic jazz or soul music - has never sung more effortlessly, or more subtly, or with more unassuming warmth than she does here. Just as her voice has taken on a bit more gravitas, there are new lights glimmering in its corners and crevices. It's everything you would expect from one of this era's most individual singers and songwriters - and yet it's like absolutely nothing she's done before.
Alan Young, Lucid Culture, NYC, June 2011
Jenifer's website: www.jeniferjackson.com
a message from Jenifer:
"The Day Happiness Found Me"
I am Jenifer Jackson and I am very excited to present my new album, "The Day Happiness Found Me". This is a group of 10 songs that I wrote over the past few years, and recorded in different permutations, never feeling satisfied with the results. Then, some friends in Austin, TX, where I've been living off and on for the past 3+ years, introduced me to James Stevens and his EAR studio. This gave me such great energy, since James and his studio immediately felt like home to me, and I knew the music would happen there.
Chris McQueen plays guitar, and keys and sings back up. Chris Jones plays upright bass, and I sing and play guitar, keys, percussion. We tracked live and arrangements are simple and sparse. No drum kit this time.
The recordings capture the essence and the spontaneity that I originally intended when I wrote the songs.
I work from my usual themes and questions; Time, Life, Death, Love, Loss, Solace in Nature, Longing, Desire, Connection and Disconnection, Hope, Darkness and Light. I focus on melody, groove, harmony, space.
I am particularly joyful with these new recordings, partly because it took quite a while to get them right, and partly because the collaboration with Chris, Chris and James was so rewarding. I hope you will enjoy.