Strange Sunshine Review

Blues Revue Magazine

by Hal Horowitz

An American soul singer traveling to the U.K. for production assistance is an unusual reversal of the classic process. Usually, British singers, heavily influence by U.S. blues and R&B, trek across the pond to get a healthy dose of that authentic, dusky mojo to inject into their sound. Just ask Dusty Springfield.

 

But Indianapolis-based Jennie DeVoe was so pleased with the results when noted English producer John Parish worked on her previous project, 2004's Fireworks and Karate Supplies, that she and her band flew to Bath to repeat the experience. Parish, best known for his work with U.K. thrush PJ Harvey, doesn't make the rootsy DeVoe sound any less American. Rather, he lets her loose to do her husky, brassy, wailing while adding subtle Beatles-esque touches such as the "Strawberry Fields Forever" keyboards that lead off this album's opening track and float under the surface of the torchy "Butterfly."

DeVoe wrote or co-wrote 11 of the dozen tracks. Between the slinky blues of "Shoulda Stayed," with its swamp guitar stank, and the lowdown R&B of "I Break Down," it's clear that blues is an overwhelming influence on DeVoe's material. Parish wisely mixes DeVoe's powerful voice--think a less commercial Joss Stone combined with Rickie Lee Jones--up front, with ever-present keyboards and strumming acoustic guitars hovering in the background. DeVoe doesn't need much accompaniment to electrify, as on the spare-percussion, picked guitar jazz scat of the scorching "Healer."

 

Just her sensual vocals slathering over the words "Call me a doctor/'cause baby I need a fix" will transfix the listener. With all her confidence and sexuality, she's nobody's little girl, as she declares with the defiance and boldness on "No Damn Man" of someone who's been through the wringer of love and emerged smarter and tougher. Between Parish's musical edge and DeVoe's melodic, gutsy songwriting--both pushed by a vibrant, multi-hued voice that can shift from a catlike purr to a gospel wail and a snarling rasp within seconds--this under-the-radar singer has the talent to be a major force on either side of the Atlantic.

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