[19 July 2009]
In 2004, Indianapolis-based singer-songwriter Jennie DeVoe packed her suitcase and guitar for a trip across the pond to the English spa town of Bath. She had enlisted the aid of PJ Harvey collaborator, multi-instrumentalist, and, most importantly, producer John Parish for her third album Fireworks & Karate Supplies. The intimate, bluesy record she brought home from that visit garnered critical praise and some serious radio play back in the States.
Five years on, DeVoe has returned to Bath, and to Parish, for her follow-up studio album, Strange Sunshine. This time around, however, she paid for her touring band to come along for the ride. The resulting album demands respect as quavering tremelo guitar, floating Mellotron, and piercing Hammond B3 organ provide the tight backing-groove for DeVoe’s sultry, honey-eyed vocals to evolve from a confidential rasp (“Strange Sunshine”) to sanctified blues belter (“Foolproof”), and on to soulful powerhouse gospel (“I Break Down”), before slipping back into a sensual country-shuffle, accompanied by Parish on banjo, that references Cher’s “Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves” on the optimistic “Blind Faith”. Strange Sunshine is a record of highlights where tales of broken hearts and tumultuous relationships have never sounded so sassy, yet at the same time so seductively heartwrenching—quite an achievement in itself.