reviewed by Laura Stanley
Winnipeg’s Jenny Berkel has shown that a debut album doesn’t always have to sound like one. Berkel’s Here on a Wire is her first record yet the skill and poise that she has, fills the album to its depths.
In an expressive folk style, the warmth to Berkel’s voice makes her music really shine. For a haunting effect, Berkel takes you through eleven songs with captivating emotional ups and downs.
What’s so great about Berkel’s album is that it is so easy to listen to. You are not distracted by too much instrumentation as every song is arranged beautifully, rich but not overtly. The first song, “Love is a Stone” and the melodious “Come a Long Way” are two examples of the listening ease that the album can hold.
“In The Hollow” and “After Moon Falls” are fuller numbers in the album. “After Moon Falls” in particular features a beautiful French horn that adds yet another bit of warmth to the album. A standout song, “Cover my Grave” again has a French horn but it’s this combined with a cello that makes the song excel. As you can see, any of the doom and gloom feelings that the album has, are often quickly combated with a softness.
The only real exception to the haunting qualities of the album being combated with a warmth is in “Watching Your Ghost.” A strong and emotional song, “Watching Your Ghost” does not leave much room to be comforted but it’s all with memorable results.
Found in The Weakerthans’ albums Left & Leaving and Reunion Tour you’ll find John K. Samson spouting out some spoken-word poetry over a simple instrumental part. Like fellow Winnipegger, Berkel does a similar creative venture in “Awaken in Stars.” Along with a basic guitar part, Berkel’s whisper-like spoken voice seems to hover for an eerie effect.
The ending of the album, “Crook of Now & Then” is one of the best. Even though there’s nothing complex or fully arranged like some of the other songs in Here on a Wire, the vivid lyrics are enough.
Jenny Berkel’s Here on a Wire is elegant, moving, and certainly something to hear.
Top Tracks: “Watching Your Ghost,” “Cover My Grave,” “Crook of Now & Then,”
Rating: Strong Hoot (Good)