Friday, May 04, 2007

Jessica Star Rockers: Beloved on Earth

Bainbridge Island, Washington, where singer-songwriter Jessica Star Rockers lives and where she recorded her album Beloved on Earth, was named the second-best place to live in the United States by CNN in 2005. On "Haunted", she sings matter-of-factly, "this life, this life has never been good", then "the lights are dark/we're living off generator power". There's a real sense of the rainy Pacific Northwest in the sound of Beloved on Earth, of claustrophobia and malaise, that confusion sometimes reigns in the best of situations. This is never overdone or self-pitying; there's just a recognition of everyday driftless feelings, made compelling by Rockers' sweet, unaffected vocals.

The basic recording features nothing but her voice, guitar, some effects, tape hiss, room noise, and the sound of fingers squeaking on the fretboard. This is a smart move, and it elevates the carefully understated songwriting to heights that studio production wouldn't approach.

Also of note here are two excellent covers. "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" comes across as everywoman Cat Power, stripping down the song to turn the celebration into a plaintive lament. And the lesser-known "If I Give My Soul", by Texas country legend Billy Joe Shaver, makes the most of every ringing note, turning the song into a harrowing, field recording spiritual.

In short, fans of smart, appealingly honest, and lo-fi should make a point to pick this up; it's a grower.


vjb2 said...

OMG (a term I don't use lightly), I went to college with her, and she wrote for my 'zine. I had no idea she was doing this. Thanks for the heads up!

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