image © Jo Williamson 2011
More Jo Williamson:
Wake On The Hudson (2008)
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image © Jo Williamson 2011
(02 August 2011) Jo Williamson is a Brooklyn-based folkish experimental singer and songwriter. "Jo has an intriguing lived-in quality to her voice and a talent for smart elegant turns of phrase" (TimeOut New York). In early 2011, she released her first full length record, Be the Man (Jo Williamson (USA), 2011), produced by celebrated singer-songwriter Martha Wainwright.
The nine track album features some of New York's finest indie musicians supporting Jo, including for example: Bryan Devendorf of the National, Doveman's Thomas Bartlett (piano, keyboard, organ), Brad Albetta (bass moog, vocals), Doug Wieselman (saxophone, clarinet), Rob Moose (guitar), Jim Campilongo (electric guitar) and Martha Wainwright provides vocals. Jo Williamson sings lead and backing vocals and plays guitar on the album.
Our visitors will likely recall our review of Jo's earlier EP Wake The Hudson (2008) produced by Brent Arnold. It left us longing for more from the artist. Jo plays regularly in and around New York. She has worked with contemporary composers, video artists, and theater and film directors, as singer, writer and performer. Her live music performances have been described as "mesmerizing, haunting, and moving."
Be The Man clearly features Jo's vocal work. The nine tracks on the album, which runs just over twenty four minutes, are primarily sung with very light arrangements. The vocal work is way up there, far above the light acoustic and electric guitar and keyboard washes in the opening title track. Gentle vocal harmonies add texture to Jo's introduction to new listeners here.
Piano and light woodwinds join the arrangement in the crisply sung "Song For You," a track that begins to illustrate Jo's well-developed power and range and heartfelt lyrical delivery. "Hedda" is delivered over extremely light percussion and sung in a story telling style. One of the more experimental tracks is "Pity," which explores the singer's vocal range. The acoustic guitar and light keyboard provide an effective backdrop to the song. An image of the artist performing live will be evoked in the calmest listener.
"Brat" is a more upbeat and accessible number accompanied by percussive piano and drum kit. Layers of vocals and additional keyboard work add texture. Listen to the track with headphones for the full effect. The memorable lyrics and melody of Jo's lead is joined by layers of backing harmonies in the track "Riddled," certainly a crowd-pleaser at Jo's live performances.
The folky "Sky Fed Pond," sung alongside acoustic guitar with slight keyboard washes further illustrates the singer's evocative talent. The backing harmony adds a little more texture to the track. "Hungry Love" continues the folky trend, although additional saxophone provides depth behind Jo's soaring and crystalline voice in the song. The album concludes with the almost a capella "So Long." This tenderly sung and slow paced track is joined by acoustic guitar and light piano before coming to its most emotionally delivered conclusion.
Jo Williamson's first full length album is a tribute to the talent and work of this singer songwriter. The arrangements perfectly support the singer's work and variety of the tracks. Vocal and instrumental production details have delivered an oustanding recording.
We only wish that the album would have been a bit longer, but aside from this one small crticism, Jo Williamson has delivered a winner.