Jenny O. – ‘Automechanic’

“A sublime mix of past and present, I half expect to see her [JENNY O.] lurking in the back of old Canyon Country Store photographs like some sort of patient, folk-rock vampire.”

Dawson White

8
out of 10

Jenny O.
Automechanic
February 5th, 2013
Holy Trinity Records

F. Scott Fitzgerald once said of writers, “if they’re any good, they’re a whole lot of people trying so hard to be one person.” The multifaceted singer-songwriter Jenny O. is evidence to support that theory. With genius as the cohesive umbrella, Jenny and Automechanic, her first full length album, take us on a cross country road trip that conjures the unique flavor of each town in a corresponding song.

At first listen, the ride seems pretty tame. But don’t be deceived by her seemingly mellow youthfulness; each replay reveals a sultrier, wiser depth that sends you flinging, white knuckled, around emotional curves before you get the news. She’s one part Stevie, one part Sheryl, and all other parts soulful O.riginal, reintroducing us to the real singer-songwriter-dom that got swallowed by the whiney, lust-sick pit from which so many of today’s “artists” have emerged.  Jenny is a different “real good kind,” as she sings in “Lessons Learned”, the bright, sprightly ode to the village that raised her. Her sound is one birthed from between the mountains in late-sixties Laurel Canyon and refined by the gleaned expertise of her once-touring partners Ben Harper and Father John Misty. A sublime mix of past and present, I half expect to see her lurking in the back of old Canyon Country Store photographs like some sort of patient, folk-rock vampire.

That’d be cool.

Cool. That’s the perfect word to describe Jenny. Ladies, she was that slightly disheveled, quiet girl in high school with all the cute musician guy friends you wanted so badly to hate. Guys, she was one of you; probably the one you crushed on in secret. It was her unabashed truth to self that drew you in, and through her music, it still will. Jenny exudes what I consider to be one of the most important traits of a musician: sincerity. The promises of celebrity and couture and photo spreads can’t compete with her love for music and the creative process. She sings not to be heard but because she has something to say. The music is of utmost importance, and these days, that’s a rare treat.

At worst (which is still pretty darn good) Jenny’s voice tends to blend in with the instrumental frame creating a flat monotony that can’t compete with the unprecedented entertainment value of your own mind. At best, however, Jenny is transcendent. The title track, “Automechanic”, for instance, combines the bass of a spaghetti western and the sweet, fluid vocals of a hazy summer dream you can’t quite remember. “Opposite Island”, drastically different yet still distinctly Jenny O., is the inner rehashing of a chaotic fight relaxed into slow motion by serene, minor piano strokes. Finally, the album’s magnum opus, “Lazy Jane”, exudes multi-level exhaust. The borderline R&B instrumentals suggest the tiring of twilight into evening and the lyrics paint the picture of one paralyzed by the loss they moved heaven and earth to avoid. You can’t go wrong with “Come and Get Me”, the Sheryl Crow “Everyday is a Winding Road” sound alike or the inviting “Hey Neighbor”, but if you do nothing else I ask of you, listen to “Lazy Jane”. Unless you’re the one contrarian that likes to spoil the bunch, you won’t be sorry.

Jenny O. is fresh off a tour with Rodriguez, the subject of the Academy Award winning Searching for Sugar Man. Lucky for you, she’s back on the road with indie darlings Night Beds and will grace the stage at The Earl on June 11. Do yourself a favor and try and catch her on this or her upcoming tour with Heartless Bastards. You’ll be glad you did.