Joanna Newsom has a voice that is so defiantly unrefined as to merit wonder how she ever garnered a recording contract … until you hear croons, where she seems to channel all the great big band singers mixed (Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Etta James, et al) with an air of Janis Joplin at the age of 10 on helium. Not to mention her composition/instrument playing skills are phenomenal. Her lyrics are more like free-verse poetry. She’s supposedly classified as “freak-folk,” which … umm … sure. Personally, I think she defies classification. She’s not pop, rock, trance, house, or electronic. No world music influence here. She has taken a bunch of instruments and mixed them in such a unique fashion that to classify her music as one genre or another is borderline insulting.
Thus it is that I offer you this review of Have One on Me–her latest release. The most immediately notable difference is her vocals. Call me crazy, but I’m convinced she got herself some training. I say that with all the love in the world. Her voice on Ys andThe Milk-Eyed Mender is fantastically unique, singing with such abandon and without guile. It’s obvious that she’s either consciously reigned in the raw-ness and opted for a more melodic voice on this offering.
Then there’s the matter of “this offering,” which is actually a 3-CD set, all of which are good enough to stand on their own. Disc 1 stand-out tracks are the soulful southern gospel-sounding “Good Intentions Paving Company,” the opening track “Easy,” and “Baby Birch”–the last track on the CD. It becomes more layered as the song progresses. Not sure what the song is about, but it’s haunting.
“Do you remember staring up at the stars,
so far away in their bulletproof cars?
We heard the rushing, slow intake of the dark, dark water,
and the engine breaks …”
I’m just blown away at how different her voice is on these new CDs, yet it still sounds like Joanna. I’m really impressed. The music is great as always. I’m a huge fan of the fact that she plays the harp. Very excellent.
Stand-out tracks on disc 2: The whole CD.
Standout tracks on disc 3: Again, the whole CD.
You really need this CD. Period. Get it.