Karen Jonas “The Restless”

Virginia-based Jonas and her touring band bring a fine set of self-penned songs for her 6th album release.

‘The Restless’ is Karen Jonas’ sixth album release, following her well-received 2020 release ‘The Southwest Sky and Other Dreams’. Virginia-based Jonas recorded the album’s 11 tracks with her touring band, guitarist and musical partner Tim Bray, bassist and co-producer Seth Morrissey, drummer Seth Brown, and multi-instrumentalist Jay Starling.

Jonas’ vocals are powerful and clear, and her well-written and conversational lyrics are a stand out from repeated listens to the release.  She recounts that “Last year I wrote a book of poems called Gumballs with the help of my best friend, editor and lyrical co-writer Andie Burke. It was cathartic and confessional, and I wanted to bring that energy to this album. Andie, Seth Morrissey and I worked as a team to get comfortable with these stories and bring them to life.”
Her talent as a storyteller is evident in the self-penned songs–with Morrissey and/or Burke credited as co-writers on four tracks–with tales around the themes of love, loss, and all the stages in between. In ‘Forever’ Jonas sings “in another time in another life/ remember when you were my best friend/ we would walk through tall grass arm in arm/ and talk until the sun sets// we would cuddle on a blanket/ you brought wine but forgot glasses/ so we just sip it from the bottle/ and we’d roll in the grass like children/ and I’d hardly even worry about spiders and snakes/ so we lie beneath the setting sun/ counting all the clouds in the pink sky/ I close my eyes and you could kiss me/ you taste like sweat and chardonnay but so do
I/ let’s be like this forever you say”.

Its gentle tempo and sparse arrangement with atmospheric dobro take the listener straight to the lovingly remembered days now long gone–delivered with tenderness but not melancholy.

A harder edge is found on ‘Rock the Boat’, with a powerful  and relentless build as Jonas sings “so rock the boat and let the wine pour heavy/ don’t be afraid to die/ the hooded bandit gets you sooner or later/ cuts the rope by and by/ so hold your breath and let the water flow easy/ you were sold a lie/ nothing saves you here there is no mercy/ but you’ll be home by and by/ you’ll be free by and by/ by and by”, the track featuring a distorted vocal intro and outro from Jonas, and a distinctive repeated guitar motif.

Jonas returns to a gentler vibe with ‘We Could be Lovers’, with her vocals at their most seductive, as she sings ” is it getting hot in here/ or is just you/ tell me what’s an honest girl/ supposed to do/so I take off my sweater/ are you getting warmer too// we could be lovers/ can we be just friends/ if we could be lovers/ can we be just friends”.

‘Elegantly Wasted’, with its twang guitar intro, has Jonas in intimate, confessional mode, singing “I’m feeling elegantly wasted/ like Cinderella in the moonlight/will you still love me in the morning/ just the way you do tonight/ I can see your breath around us/ little clouds of vapor dew/ I breathe in the air you breathe out/ leaning closer into you”.

Arrangements throughout are well judged to ‘serve the songs‘, always allowing Jonas’ vocals to sparkle at the front of the mix, always allowing the listener in on her simultaneously poetic and unfussy lyrics.

Fine vocals and well-crafted lyrics shine through on Jonas’ latest release.

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About David Jarman 111 Articles
Long time fan of Americana genre, from early days of Ry Cooder, through to today's thriving scene. Regular visitor to USA ( Nashville/Austin/Memphis/LA ) live music junkie, I play guitar, mandolin, harmonica, plus vocals, run monthly jam session in Broadstairs
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