Close Up & Real
(Tomboy, 2002)

This is a really engaging album from an Essex lass who, like many before her, spent years writing songs, playing local gigs and sending demos off to record companies, and when nobody showed much interest, went out to get a proper job. Many years later, a friend dusted off her old playlist and encouraged her to make her music available across the Internet. From there interest grew until this album of 17 songs mostly written in her pre-family-and-proper-job days, was born.

It's hard to characterise Jane's music. It's not exactly folk-rock, there's nothing Celtic about it, but it's good and it's sometimes a bit jazzy with a hint of modern country thrown in. There's a mainstream edge to it, but for all that, there's also enough genuine originality to lift it out of the ordinary. The strength of the album is in Jane's vocals (similar to Faith Hill for power and texture), but the atmospheric effects used and the raw quality of the production also contribute to its freshness. There are times when the lyrics are a little too obtuse for my simple tastes, but when the words and music start to blend, as they do on tracks such as "Breathe (It Might Be Love)," "Borderline" and "Keep the Faith" among others, the effect is stunning.

This is a good strong album from a good strong songwriter and hopefully the groundswell of support she's been getting from her admirers (who include celebrated composer Barrington Pheloung, incidentally) will soon lead to even greater things.

Anyway, don't take my word for it, drop into Jane's website and download a few extracts for yourself.

- Rambles
written by Jean Lewis
published 20 December 2003

[ visit the artist's website ]