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CD REVIEW: Jess Dunkin - Forest for the Trees
By Jane Eamon - 01/17/2006 - 11:34 PM EST

Artist: Jess Dunkin
Album: Forest for the Trees
CD Review: I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; it’s so hard to identify with indie singer/songwriters when there are so many people doing it these days. The trailblazers who have “made” it are often imitated and it gets harder and harder to break new ground.

Jess Dunkin’s CD, Forest for the Trees is that kind of CD, sounds like someone else. There is nothing at first listen that leaps out and goes “WOW”. There wasn’t a track that stuck in the computer waiting to be played over and over again. It was a lovely little collection of poetic singer/songwriter songs.

Dunkin has a lovely voice. Others have compared her to Natalie Merchant and Jewel, and I’ll echo that sentiment. Her voice is very similar – that breathy well toned voice that sings sad songs so well. But, after two or three songs, I lost interest. The production values are very minimal, so minimal it was difficult to hear her guitar playing at all sometimes. And every song was the same, guitar and vocal, same stylings, same delivery, very similar tempos….you get the picture.

I read somewhere that building a CD set list is no less important than building a set list for live performance. You would never do 3 wrist slitters in a row; your audience would either be asleep or bored. You need to develop a sense of flow, take the audience on a journey. Leave them wanting more when they’re done. Same goes for the CD; catch them right at the top, and lead them gently along a path until you say goodbye.

There were no words with Dunkin’s CD. It’s really hard for a reviewer to comment on songwriting when we can’t understand the words being sung and there aren’t any lyric sheets included. Even if you have to handwrite them, always include your lyrics. I think Dunkin is a good songwriter but I couldn’t make out her words enough to really get into it. There was one song – Politica that I did like. There was a line….’men with turbans and beards, not to be trusted just feared.’ Great line and a clear image about the current state of affairs in the world. If you’ve got something to say, make sure we understand what you’re saying.

I will say though, that I loved the packaging. It was fresh and stood out from the other CD’s in the pile. I did want to listen to the CD.

Dunkin doesn’t appear to have a website and I couldn’t find out very much about her on the internet, though I did find an interesting comment about her having an underground castle. Hmmm….

You can write to her at jessicadunkin@trentu.ca.



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