Portland-based ‘indie Americana’ singer-songwriter goes soul-pop and jazz-blues, with mixed results
According to the press material accompanying her new album, ‘Go Mine’, Portland ‘indie Americana’ artist Jenn Grinels has ‘eschewed the pristine production techniques you hear on the radio for a more raw and improvisational approach’. Sadly there isn’t much evidence of it on the record, but, funnily enough, there is a song called ‘Evidence’, a duet with US singer-songwriter, Marc Broussard, which is catchy, yet bland, daytime mainstream radio fodder – slick, commercial soul-pop with organ and horns.
Grinels covers Nina Simone’s blues ballad ‘Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood’ but makes it sound lightweight, with a supper club feel and arrangement. As she sings, “If I seem edgy, I want you to know that I never meant to take it out on you”, you can’t help but think that she doesn’t sound edgy at all – the song is shorn of all its pain and suffering and emotional appeal.
Grinels does have a powerful voice and the album’s bluesy title track is the best thing here, a sassy and sultry kiss-off to an ex-lover – “You can go your way and I’ll go mine” – with some great jazz trumpet, dramatic piano and shades of Amy Winehouse and Alanis Morissette. Her vocals on the lush and dreamy ‘Anytime Soon’, arguably the most ‘Americana’ moment on the album, have echoes of Stevie Nicks. ‘Void’ and ‘Resilience’ are stripped-down, string-assisted ballads – pleasant enough, but far from earth-shattering, and the acoustic-led love song ‘Right From The Start’ is clichéd and mawkish: “Somehow I knew I would spend my life with you.”
Grinels relocated to Portland after cutting her teeth in the Nashville music scene and recently made three records that will be released over the next year and a half – ‘Go Mine’ is the first of those. Here’s hoping that the next two are more raw and less pristine.