Isn’t it amazing how you can accidentally stumble upon someone and they can instantly be propelled into your top echelon of artistes. So how did I get into Jonatha Brooke then. Well it was a strange journey but I’m glad I made it. Lets go back a few years and old Leedham is suddenly discovering that the artistic part of him is rearing its ugly head again and the notebook and pen are making a comeback along with the third rate lyrical doodlings. This is the twenty-first century now though and the world is getting smaller by the day. Grasping this realisation with a rare burst of dynamism, before I know it I’m all over the web searching for song writing collaborators. Surprisingly I am inundated with requests from all far flung corners of the world within days ……. but anyway what has this got to do with Jonatha Brooke I hear you cry. Well one of the people that I came into contact with was an aspiring young American singer called Lelia Broussard. She sent me a message one morning telling me how she had been out on the previous evening and seen someone called Jonatha Brooke and that I just must hear her. So I did and the rest is history as they say.
Whether ‘Plumb’ is a Jonatha Brooke & The Story album or a straight Brooke solo album is open for debate. The cover says the former but for me it sits more easily alongside her solo releases than those done in tandem with Jennifer Kimball as The Story.
Like so many of these type of albums it does take some time to gently work its way into your soul and become something of a friend. I have to say I have had it on constant rotation for a few weeks now since it came out of the cupboard for review and just can’t bring myself to file it away. The overall feel of the album is quite sad and downbeat but with a strange under current of optimism if that makes any sense. Brooke has a beautiful almost soprano type voice and writes a clever and thought provoking lyric, even though one critic dismissed her as ‘having a too bold preachiness’ and suggested that she ‘stretched her literary conceits too far’. That to me at least is total nonsense and this album is packed full of proof that critics are critics and not songwriters because they tend not to know water from wine.
I’m not going to try and break this album down and describe it track for track as I don’t think I could do it justice. Also it needs to be taken as a whole to fully appreciate its significance and beauty. Lets just say there is not a bad track on here (except the pointless little instrumental jig at the end). From the opening Sarah McLachlanesque pop of ‘Nothing Sacred’ right through to the dark ‘Paris’ with its haunting lyric and the beautiful ‘Charming’. On the way we get the truly wonderful ‘Where Were You’ which for some reason is dismissed by many. Personally I think it is a classic peice of American AOR and had it been recorded by Sheryl Crow it would probably have been a world wide hit. Think ‘All I Wanna Do’ for example. The jazzy ‘Inconsolable’ was showcased in an episode of ‘Buffy The Vampire Slayer’ and the following ‘No Better’ is another track that deserves to be heard by a wider audience. ‘Is This All’ is superbly laid back and ‘War’ the duet with Bruce Cockburn is more than your standard anti war song thanks to the approach.
So however you get there, whether it be a long convoluted way like me or more directly, if you are a fan of female singer/songwriters find your way somehow to Jonatha Brooke. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed.
© Martin Leedham. Originally published on RYM April 2010