CD REVIEW: Jennifer Greer - Jewel Machine
By Ashley Petkovski - 11/26/2002 - 01:20 AM EST
Artist: Jennifer Greer
Album: Jewel Machine
Beth Hart’s vocal twin, the godchild of Janis Joplin and the spiritual descendant of Carole King, Jennifer Greer lives by the classic girl-at-the-piano code: keep your fingers busy with majestic piano lines, make your voice heard, and be as honest - and as lusty – as you can be. Her 7 song EP “Jewel Machine” plants Greer’s feet firmly on the singer-songwriter ground, providing a stunning, sweeping showcase of passion and beauty.
As we all know, the girl-at-the-piano ‘thing’ has been done again and again, with few artists bringing anything new to the table. While not exactly breaking new ground in the fashion of some of her precursors, Jennifer Greer works with some of the old, classically based formulas, but infuses new life into even the most down-tempo of songs with a unique rhythm and a genuine confidence. Although some of her compositions, with their waltz-y rhythmic patters and delicate piano parts, seem like nothing new to the uninitiated ear, further listening reveals a distinct earthy quality and a level of unexpected funkiness.
Greer is, beyond the shadow of a doubt, a marvelous pianist. Her musical voicings, although not outlandishly inimitable, provide a striking groundwork for each song. She is capable of bringing out a distinct emotion in even the most conventional of chord structures - when she chooses to use them - but her genuine strength lies in developing sleek, funky, fluctuating musical patterns that show off a pianist influenced by more that the typical assortment of keyboard-based favourites. Backed by an unassuming rhythm section, Greer’s piano shares the spotlight with her gorgeous voice, a voice which harnesses the sensual warble of the previously mentioned Beth Hart and it’s own distinct, sophisticated tonality.
“Jewel Machine,” which is Greer’s debut disc, showcases the lyrical ability of a seasoned pro. Exquisitely pieced together, Greer’s affinity for poetry is obvious and much appreciated. Sometimes lofty and sometimes poignant, the tracks on “Jewel Machine” contain lyrics that are not only melodically appealing but outwardly intelligent and wonderfully articulate. Greer’s passion and eloquence are constantly apparent, regardless of the song’s tempo or style. Sharp sophistication lets lyrics like “You don’t wear much but it don’t bother me” (Eventual Baby) carry not only a touch of humor but a chic sensuality – something that is present throughout the entire disc. Greer’s way with words is a genuine musical blessing, giving “Jewel Machine” an undeniable depth.
The only thing that holds “Jewel Machine” back from sheer greatness is the production, which is, in parts, slightly muddy. It’s not at all an initial distraction from the songs themselves. If anything, it’s a down-home touch, but pristine sound quality could do nothing but enhance the overall precision, and add a more delicate tone to the slower tracks.
Slight production imperfection aside, “Jewel Machine” essentially follows the age-old girl-at-the-piano formula, backed by tempered rhythmic contributions. However, thanks in no small part to passion, elegance, and outright talent, the formula, for Jennifer Greer, works very, very well.
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