Relative newcomer Jobi Riccio delivers a fine debut album about teenage angst.
It is amazing how many new young female singer-songwriters, many of them gay, spring into the limelight with songs detailing their ‘queerness’ and the events and obstacles that they have had to battle through in their younger lives, and how many have been able to get record deals or have crowdfunded their way into the spotlight to be able to tell their story – and hurray for that!
Jobi Riccio is one such (she has been signed by Yep Roc Records), and she has delivered a painfully honest album about the experience of navigating her late teens from child to adult, confronting her ‘queerness’ as she describes it and emerging into her mid-twenties with the confusion and isolation hopefully behind her. The songs on her debut full length album ‘Whiplash’ were written during this difficult period. The title track sets the tone for the entire album reflecting on these confusing times “I’ve been having dreams Where I am flying Flying underneath the prairie moon The wheat stretches out like an ocean I know I won’t be coming home soon, I am dizzy With my memories And the feeling of time spinning past I’ve got whiplash But the cars won’t slow No they only continue to crash”.
The album has many influences from Joni Mitchell to Sheryl Crow (which new female artist isn’t influenced by her?), from indie folk (‘Trying’) to a retro 60s sound (’Relief’) and a jazzy cocktail bar closer (‘One Last Time’). It’s a largely acoustic album with modern indie production arrangements, with acoustic guitar (Riccio), fiddle (Josie Toney), electric and steel (Mike Robinson), plus keyboards and drums provided by co-producers Isaiah Beard and Jesse Timm. Toney adds some beautiful strings on ‘Lonely Tonight’ and there are echoing vocals and the occasional haunting woodwinds in the background.
Born and raised in Morrison, Colorado (home of Red Rocks Amphitheatre), Riccio is now based in Nashville. Following the release of a well-received EP Strawberry Wine in 2019, she has been winning awards for her songwriting and in 2023 she was awarded the prestigious Newport Folk Festival John Prine Fellowship. ‘Whiplash’ was recorded and engineered in Asheville, North Carolina by Gar Ragland at his Citizen Studios – the reward for winning a NewSong Music Competition in 2019, although the production was delayed by COVID. Ragland and Riccio co-produced, following the guitar parts Riccio laid down.
The album kicks off with the delightful ‘Summer’ with lovely acoustic and then electric guitar, and a wordless vocal backing. The songs roll into one another without a break and ‘Sweet’ introduces us to her problems coping with being gay “I can’t believe I’m standing here again All I guys I meet Just lead to dead ends And all the girls I’ve wanted Never had a clue And probably don’t bat for my team Even If they knew”.
‘For me, it’s you’ is a beautiful song about unrequited love with short but mournful fiddle and guitar solos; guitar and fiddle are dominant throughout, except for a quite wonderful piano solo by the formidable Alan Pasqua on the closing track ‘One last time’, another beauty about unrequited love. The album is mostly slow, but the tempo is raised for a couple of tracks and then there is the rocking ‘Relief’, a throwback to the late 60s.
Riccio has an attractive warm, mellow voice, with quite a range, her guitar playing is quite prominent in the mix and fits the songs perfectly and her songwriting prowess is evident from the awards she has won. This is a girl who is going places. Let us hope her current songwriting is as strong as on this album – in anticipation of her sophomore album, enjoy this debut as it is very good.