Reviews

Karen Jonas’ Lucky, Revisited


By Brian Rock

Americana chanteuse, Karen Jonas revisits her early recordings on her fourth release, Lucky, Revisited. Whereas most artists revamp the arrangements of their most popular songs for the stage and then release a live album featuring the new renditions, Jonas has allowed her songs to evolve over hundreds of live performances – and then gone back to the studio to record the new versions. But the changes are subtle. The tempos don’t double or halve, there’s no added guitar solos or lost verses. An occasional high note is held a half beat longer, there’s an added breathiness to some of the vocal phrasing, guitarist Tim Bray adds a subtle flourish here and there. The nut and bolts of the songs are essentially the same. But the songs are worth hearing again.

Equal parts Roseanne Cash, Eilen Jewell, and Diana Krall, Jonas has a distinctive Country torch voice that’s hard to resist, and she’s a heckuva storyteller to boot.

Jonas sings a breathy, tremelo tribute to the dust bowl in “Oklahoma Lottery.” With poetic imagery like, “we hang our hope with the clothes on the line…” she captures the heartbreak of the era when people were forced to leave their homes for lack of rain. She shows of a wry sense of humor in the Honky-Tonk, “Country Songs.” Unexpectedly discovering the heart of Country music, she sings, “So thank you for teaching me to love Country songs; for making me so sad I want to sing along.”

Karen kicks up her heals on the spitfire, “Ophelia,” a spirited call for women to declare their independence from men who don’t treat them right. The equally high-octane “Money” is another anthem of independence. Singing, “There’s nothing you have that I need. And wanting nothing makes me free,” she discovers a Zen like level of non-attachment.

“Butter” and “Lucky” showcase Jones’ jazzy torch singer talents. Turning up the heat on “Butter,” she sings, “Momma cooks with butter, of course she does sugar; soft and warm right on the counter. She looks like Grace Kelly, she tastes like Betty Crocker.” Something tells me there’s more than food heating up in the kitchen. “Lucky” smolders like a femme fatale from a film noir classic. Hinting at layers of cinematic intrigue she purrs, “You can call me lucky but you never seen the way I took to get here.”

Jonas unplugs for the intimate ballads, “Wasting Time,” River Song”, and “Gospel of the Road,” the latter of which captures the yearning spirit of Darrell Scott’s “Someday.”

With lyrics that range from acerbic to vulnerable to comic to tragic; and a voice that brings those lyrics to life with sensuous flair, Karen Jonas’ Lucky, Revisited is worth visiting again and again.

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Brian Rock

Brian Rock

Brian was raised gypsy style, moving every other year until well after college. As friendships proved to be temporary, Brian found a constant companion in music, wearing the grooves off Beatles and Dylan albums before moving on to Lyle Lovett and Dwight Yokam. Living so often in flux, he has come to value music and lyrics of lasting quality. Not moved by trends or fashion, he is drawn to timeless lyrics and soulful rhythms. Although now settled down, Brian still expresses his gypsy spirit through his writing. He has co-written songs with musician friends he’s met along the way, including several contributions to the 2012 ICMA Album of the Year, Family Album. Brian also writes children’s books and poems, including the Children’s Book Council featured title, The Deductive Detective.
Brian Rock

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