I learn from the supplied biog (read after playing the CD, I’ll add!) that “Jenny is Manchester born and bred. She has always lived there and probably always will, as she is a homebody at heart”. This started the bells ringing: your starter for ten – which folk luminary has often uttered a comparable personal credo…?
Meanwhile, back in the listening booth, Jenny sets out her stall on track one, ‘Stars And Trees’ (one of her own compositions): a breathy, youthful voice crooning its enigmatic yet simple poetry, drifting across a gentle and intimate soundscape of strummed guitar enhanced by underplayed shimmering studio effects. First impression – of something ephemeral and insubstantial – is reinforced by hearing the altogether stronger identity of track 2, the ballad of ‘The Eagle’s Gift’, where Jenny retells an old local (=Manchester) legend to an imaginative backdrop featuring contributions from family and friends on various instruments. Track 3 features Jenny’s interpretation of one of her favourite traditional songs, ‘The Forsaken Mermaid’ (‘Constant Lovers’ to you!), which you’ll probably think quite attractive (that is, if you don’t know any other recording) – but I think Jenny achieves her pretty consistency at the expense of the tale’s inherent passion and drama. Track 4 (‘Don’t Be Cruel’) is the first of several songs that are set to a wandering, floating slow-waltz tempo, and I swear that if I’d been listening blind I’d have taken this for an out-take from a Kate Rusby CD – right down to the simple chordal strummed guitar pattern and cooing vocal delivery, complete with “northern” vowel sounds (and no, I’m not being regionalist!). ‘My Sweet William’, with its piano backing, is if anything even more redolent of the Barnsley Lass. OK, there, I’ve said it, and I really can’t escape the impression that Jenny’s trying for the Rusby-soundalike crown, whether consciously or not. Which is a pity, for her songwriting has merit and shows considerable promise in its delicate and hopeful expression of often complex emotional situations. It’s also a shame that Jenny’s billed as “a young traditional singer/ songwriter”, which seems rather misleading whichever way it’s read (ie clearly she’s neither a traditional singer who happens to write songs, nor a songwriter of traditional songs!), but it’s best to approach Jenny rather as principally a songwriter who occasionally sings a traditional song. My other reservation about Jenny’s CD (and her previous single release) is that I’m not sure that her voice is captured entirely faithfully here, for (at least on some of the tracks) it has a slightly artificial timbre, a disconcerting sugary overtone that sounds as though it’s been just-a-bit-speeded-up to make it sound more girly. Having said all that, I still believe Jenny has much to offer – once she gets the chance to forge her own identity.