2016 has seen a host of stellar albums from female singer-songwriters including Elise Davis, Bonnie Bishop, Kelsey Waldon, and Margo Price, to name a few. And if you enjoy any, or all, of those artists, make certain you give Karen Jonas a listen.
Released on October 14th, Country Songs, the follow-up to her critically acclaimed debut, Oklahoma Lottery, begins with the title track, a twangy and humorous thank you of sorts that’s followed by nine more tunes - all written or co-written by Jonas - including the rollicking kiss-off “Keep Your Hands to Yourself” on which she boldly asserts, “Hey, just because I wanted you doesn’t mean you can make a fool out of me,” and the jaunty “Ophelia” where she offers sage advice to another who isn’t in the healthiest of relationships. Jonas balances those mid-tempo two-steppers with somber heartache, taking a seductively moody turn on the stunning “Garden” and adding a smoldering noir feel with her nuanced, breathy vocals (recalling Norah Jones) on “Why Don’t You Stay” where uncertainty and anger simmer. Melancholy merges with hope on the intensely intimate “Wasting Time” where she laments using too much of her time to forget another (whom she clearly still loves), while the shuffle of his wandering feet leaves her lonely, leading her “Wandering Heart” into temptation.
Country Songs is rounded out by “Whiskey and Dandelions” a perfect-in-every-way tale of a woman who prefers the simple things; the astute, thought-provoking, and urgent “The Fair Shake”, “And all the things you think are yours aren’t really yours to take/Be gracious when you can and when you can’t let them walk away” and a timely variation on a standard in the bluesy “Yankee Doodle Went Home.”
Country Songs wraps fiddle, steel, organ and guitar around inspired storytelling that is all at once insightful, honest, tenacious and vulnerable. Completely avoiding any sophomore slump, Jonas’ Country Songs captures something timeless and special in an album you'll be listening to well after year's end.