7 Feb 2017

Jo Harman: People We Become

It is always interesting to read what an artist has to say about themselves – and not just about their influences, their favourite colour and their childhood ambitions. Buried in amongst the tsunami of words, publicity releases and reviews of her quite spectacular latest album 'People We Become', are some words from several of her pre-launch interviews...”I have only ever tried to be me – and that's what (this album) is. It's me.”
There, I suspect, lies one of the keys to this extraordinary singer's success. 

Uncomplicated and uncompromising and focussed. I first saw her live nearly four years ago, headlining a festival and her voice made an indelible impression. A couple of years later when reviewing 'Found a Place', I wrote “her voice is an extraordinary, unique, powerful and emotional blessing.” It still is, but in Jo's own words, her voice 'has matured in the same way as her songs and song-writing have matured' - she is still moving forward, learning, developing, exploring and still imbuing her songs with that rare and total vocal emotional commitment and yes, 'being me' is an excellent place for her to be.

'People We Become' is an absolute tour de force. It gathers together in one place, that huge tapestry of range, depth, style and emotion that we have come to expect from this artist. The tracks move from the anthemic to desperately sad and tender soul and almost pop-based finger-clicking and upbeat Motown. Her song-writing is incredibly personal and you know you are in the company of someone who has travelled down that road. For this writer at least, this is where she touches your heart best and tracks like 'Person of Interest', 'Silhouettes of You' and 'Changing of the Guard' bring it all up close and personal. There is a lot of pain, hurt and sorrow here. 
Her song-writing, employing phrases like 'I will carry you', 'I don't want you to be like me', 'I've tried and tried' and 'walk away' provides her with the perfect emotional platform from which to float her voice. This is someone who can pick a note from the floor and then touch the sky with it. There are also tracks on here, like the amazing 7minute piano driven 'Lend Me Your Love' that lead you along quietly ('it's so easy') and build up to a gut-wrenching climax only to finally let you down.
Everything about this production shouts class. Jo went to Nashville and collaborated with Fred Mollin to produce the album and it shows. She is surrounded by the finest musicians (buy the album to find out who they are!) and in consequence, every little bridge, fill, intro and outro, or whispering backline is beautifully constructed, the pauses and silences beautifully nuanced and every time - whether it be the atmospheric guitar work, the sometimes delicate and sometimes rocking piano interventions or the careful swell and feel of the backing singers – they get it just right.
I've only touched on a few tracks here, rather than list them all - they are all good, powerful, poignant and moving. If you have an ear you will enjoy the listen - again and again. It is a wonderfully crafted piece of work and deserves all the plaudits that are coming its way. Every track on here is totally accessible and will carry you with it - and it will still be played many years from now. 
If 'learning, maturing and being me', as Jo puts it, can produce an album of this quality, then let's hope Jo keeps on being Jo...