JESS VINCENT – Shine (Hatsongs HAT008)

JESS VINCENT ShineOnce again produced by and featuring Reg Meuross (who also co-wrote five of the 12 tracks) with regular collaborators, guitarist Marcel Rose and cellist Beth Porter joined by Pete Willis on bass and Graham Brown taking over from Roy Dodds (who handles the mastering duties) on percussion, Vincent’s third album continues her upwards momentum as one of the brightest names on the UK folk-country scene. Again, the DeMent and Parton comparisons are to the forefront, but this time round I’d also suggest there’s a definite touch of early Nanci Griffiths to her engaging warbling trill, especially so on the lovely ‘Fall Apart’, the song itself putting me in mind of Julie Gold.

Reg providing the harmonica and banjo, it opens with the sparkling exuberant and infectious upbeat folk-pop title track, a number that could make the most dismal winter’s day feel like glorious spring, then, keeping the theme of love’s positivity (and the harmonica), comes ‘Love Me True’ before the first of the album’s songs rooted in real life figures. Featuring Vincent on shruti box, ‘New Amsterdam’ is a sort of sea shanty and gypsy waltz cocktail about Olive Thomas, a silent movies actress (and sister-in-law to Mary Pickford) whose promising screen career was cut short in 1920 after drinking mercury bichloride, rumouredly laced in her wine, sparking one of the first of media frenzy Hollywood scandals.

Moving from movies to music, Meuross co-penned closer ‘Billy Tipton’s Waltz’, Brown on brushed drums and Mike Cosgrave on piano, tells the story of William Lee Tipton, an Oklahoma-born 1950’s jazz pianist and saxophonist who was born Dorothy Lucille , but lived her life as a man (she had several wives and three adopted sons, who only discovered the truth when, 74, their father was treated for a fatal peptic ulcer), forming the Billy Tipton Trio (the others unaware of his true sex) and releasing two albums.

A somewhat less celebrated name, featuring Porter’s cello, ‘Wind On The Downs’ is adapted from the best known work by the Oxford-born poet Marian Allen, written after her fiancé, Arthur Greg, a pilot in the Royal Flying Corps who was shot down in 1917. And, staying with a military but introducing a personal touch, the gently dappled, vocally soaring Parton-esque ‘Charley’s Song’ was written as a morale-boosting tribute to her army officer friend and the responsibilities she takes on.

There’s also a very personal note to the banjo and accordion backed Vincent/Meuross waltzer ‘Wrong Shade Of Blue’ that juggles the musically upbeat framework and the sunny day images with the emotions welling up over her mother’s death. She adopts a similar mismatch on ‘Shackles And Chains’, where she duets with herself on a piano led DeMent-like country heartbreaker about a woman rescued from post break -up suicide drowning and the chains of the past by a man the narrator meets in bar and who follows her to the sea.

Featuring Cosgrave’s accordion and Brown on cajon, the last of the co-penned numbers takes its cue from Tex-Mex tales of men seduced by femme fatales, ‘Run, Senor Run’a train-rolling rhythm tale about how Carlos ignores his friend’s warning that the woman with whom he’s besotted has come from the grave.

Which just leaves two self-penned tracks, the mid-tempo uke and cello accompanied ‘Raining’, a track that pretty much sums up the sort of day we’ve all had when the world seems to fall apart and the waters rise, and, again calling DeMent to mind, the gentle Appalachian heartache of ‘Here And Now’, Porter’s cello underscoring the lyrics (again, surely informed by her mother’s passing) about the grief, loss and and sense of being left alone following the death of someone close. Listen hard and you may find it hard not to feel a lump welling in the throat. Her best album yet, Vincent doesn’t just shine, she positively glows.

Mike Davies

Artist’s website:

‘Shine’ – live performance and interview: