Here On A Wire
Independent / Bandcamp.
SCQ Rating: 76%
Oh records by lone songwriters, adorned in quaint illustrations and full of contributions from session players I’ve never heard of; there’s so much to learn from you. Crops of you appear every year in local record stores and taped to streetlight posts, with but a fraction ascending to any level of notoriety or acclaim. That’s the risk of trudging on alone: all the riches or failures tend to fall on your birth-name. And yet each year brings a handful of mature and unpolished gems, consolidated by wise musicians, a tasteful palette and songwriting that yearns to connect; Canada is positively blessed to wind up with so many records of this quiet caliber.
Here On A Wire, the sophomore release by Jenny Berkel, deserves recognition as a showcase for the young Winnipeg songwriter’s overcast vein of traditional folk. And by “traditional”, I mean hard-earned; Berkel doesn’t shy away from tough decisions or seek to camouflage her material in studio trickery. Each song stands on account of its own conviction and only through the appreciation of Berkel’s songwriting foundation can Here On A Wire’s subtle arrangements intoxicate her surroundings. The tempered, finger-picked “Love Is a Stone” converts to a bluesy groove without missing a beat while an intimate group of strings court Berkel’s smoky vocals over “Cover My Grave”. Clever twists aside, Berkel spends most of these eleven tracks revealing folk tunes that often, as in the case of “All Is Undone”, rise to the rank of softly heroic.
With year-end lists around the corner and Canada prepping another new class of budding songwriters, it wouldn’t be the least bit surprising to see Jenny Berkel graduate to some rightful acclaim.