Jess Vincent – Lions Den
Kostanurka Records – Out Now
In the time since her last CD (2015’s Shine), Jess Vincent and her partner Jozeph Chowles have bravely relocated (to Bulgaria), while Jess has taken the decision to confront the demons of her past in order to avoid repeating the same old mistakes – hence the title of her new album (which also happens to be frustratingly apostrophe-less, arguably to conform to the Bulgarian practice of not using apostrophes).
Lions Den is a collection of ten outstanding new original songs, generally more reflective and less sunny in disposition than Shine, thus befitting her new mission statement. Its title song may appear languid and settled, but there’s a current of uneasiness portraying the unarguable momentousness of her life-changing decision.
Musically speaking, the album’s often quite pared-down yet at the same time quite ethereal, although there are some full-on kick-out moments such as the development of Stranger, and I feel some indie-pop dreaminess gets into Ghosts. There’s quite a bit of banjo within the carefully-considered backings, which also bring in darker shades of cello and harmonium to balance the brighter uke and guitar textures. There’s also something of an Americana/country influence at times (some decidedly twangsome electric guitar on Follow and the sensuous Holiday, for instance), while some of Jess’s vocal work may recall Iris Dement, especially on the beautiful back porch-strolling harmonica-led finale Won’t Be Long.
A delicious Emmylou feel also pervades the glorious simple, yearning Waiting For You. A faintly disturbing idyll is evoked here, and this sense of dislocation and slightly dreamy aura pervades several of the other songs, giving the album as a whole a special ambience. Much of the credit for this must go to Jess’s producer (partner Jozeph), of course, but it’s self-evidently Jess’s own voice and lyrics that provide Lions Den with its unique character. I wouldn’t wish to undersell the pleasure Jess’s music has given me over the course of her first three albums, but I do feel nevertheless that Lions Den opens up a whole new chapter.
Dare to be a Daniel, then, and take a fearless dive into the Lions Den – you’ll not regret it.