29 May 2016

Jo Harman: Found a Place

You would need to have a heart made of reinforced concrete not to be totally entranced and taken over by this stunning new piece of work from Jo Harman. An EP entitled 'Found A Place', it apparently started out as something of a studio experiment, but developed into a fans only 'thank-you' album to those who have loyally followed this exceptional singer from her first ventures, club and festival gigs, through her majestic debut album 'Dirt On My Tongue' and now as she prepares for a follow-up to be be recorded stateside next year.

This is a beautifully produced stripped-back affair where Jo's close-up voice (the production is such that you can almost touch the breathing and phrasing) clutches you from the very first note of the very first poignant track 'Lend Me Your Love' and will not let go until the fade of the last number.  If you have ever been lucky enough to have seen Jo live you will know how demonstrative she is on stage. I saw her many years ago totally absorbing the high vaulted acoustics of an old chapel like a lightning conductor – so to be able to retain that electric magic in a studio, as she does, is a sure sign of the emotional power of her distinctive voice.

Jo has always been surrounded by top class musicians and one of the things that make this album so impressive is the way their classy presence - particularly the oh-so-delicate piano (Mark Edwards) and string arrangements – is so beautifully dovetailed into the songs that they are barely noticeable. In consequence, the voice, quite rightly, has nowhere to hide.  One of the covers on the album, Jo's absolutely heart-breaking rendition of the Michael McDonald song 'I Can Let Go Now' is a fine example of the subtlety of the accompaniments, even when she is reaching out with increased volume and passion. This track alone would make a best-selling single but everything on here is a fabulous demonstration of her ability to get right to the core of a song and imbue it with her own distinctive magic.

I don't care if Jo sings the blues or ballads or boogies to some swing. What has become clear over the years is that her voice is an extraordinary, unique, powerful and emotional blessing. It is obvious that she totally engages with her material, wherever it comes from – and if you get this album, I guarantee you will find it difficult not to take that emotive journey with her. A wonderful piece of world class artistry.