PEOPLE WE BECOME - JO HARMAN
LCM ALBUM OF THE MONTH - FEBRUARY 2017
Release Date: 3rd February, 2017
Genre: Soul, Blues, Rock, R'n'B, Gospel and Pop.
Record Label: Total Creative Freedom Ltd (Independent)
Every so often a very special album comes along which really captures the imagination and becomes an instant classic. A super collection of music full of heart which demands repeated plays. One that gets better and better on every listen. Already receiving international radio airplay and critical acclaim, Jo Harman's second studio album 'People We Become' is a real 'force of nature'. You can feel richness and class with it's sumptuous arrangements, high quality musicianship and songwriting. Jo has an amazing voice, full of depth, purity, feeling and power. This new album showcases it to the full. It's a wonderful fusion of Soul, Blues, Rock, Gospel, R'n'B and Beatlesque Pop.
“I’m not trying to fit in anywhere,” admits Jo, whose super-sized voice fills the record’s 10 tracks. “I’m just trying to write classic songs, and present them with classic production. When you try to chase what’s going on at the moment, then it’s going to sound old very quickly.”
Raised in Southwest England, Jo found success on her own terms with her 2013 debut, 'Dirt On My Tongue'. The album was released independently and supported by a touring schedule that found Jo sharing the stage with icons like Patti Smith, Joan Baez and Sinead O’Connor. Wildly successful for an independent record, 'Dirt On My Tongue' was embraced with particular devotion by the blues community in the U.K., with Jo racking up more than a half-dozen nominations from the British Blues Awards. Looking to expand her horizons beyond any single genre, she began teaming up with her longtime co-writer Mike Davies, to write new songs that took their cues from some of her favourite classic artists, including Carole King, Cat Stevens and David Bowie, whose music had filled her childhood home. Jo wasn’t looking to be a throwback artist. Instead, she was narrowing her focus to the building blocks of timeless music, from powerful melodies to organic and natural-sounding arrangements.
'People We Become' marks the biggest leap of Jo's career. To make it she headed to Nashville, Tennessee, where she found a trusted collaborator in producer Fred Mollin (Carol King, Billy Joel, Carly Simon, Rumer). While a winter storm raged outside, Jo and Fred holed up inside the city’s famed Sound Emporium Studio for three weeks, focusing on a warm sound that was full of upright piano, Rhodes, bursts of superb electric guitar and the soulful sweep of Jo's voice which contrasted with Nashville's snowy weather. Backing her up are some of Nashville’s best session players, award-winning musicians like Tom Bukovac, Greg Morrow and Gordon Mote. Shortly after the album’s release, Jo will return to Nashville this time as part of her first American tour.
“I’ve learned how to express myself a bit better, and to convincingly put across the stories that I’m telling,” Jo says. “It’s a natural progression. My voice has matured, in the same way that the songs have matured, and the production has matured. I’ve only ever tried to be me, and that’s what People We Become is. It’s me.”
WIth it's muted and distorted gospel and R'n'B opening 'No One Left To Blame' develops quickly into a great rock track, full of strong bass lines from Larry Paxton and driving percussion from Greg Morrow. Throughout the album Jo provides all the backing vocals all multi-layered into a Motown heavenly choir. One of Jo's favourites on the album and one of ours as well is the beautiful 'Silhouettes Of You'. Marvelous piano, electric guitar and bass lines weave around the melody. It's a song which would sit happily on a Carole King album and showcases Jo's pure and emotive 'Rumer' like vocals. It's a heartfelt and poignant breakup song. Moving through the stages of relationship coming to an end. Heartbroken one moment, reflecting on what might have been and then empowered to move forward with new purpose, to explore pastures new. The song links thematically with 'Changing Of The Guard' and 'Person Of Interest' as the story continues to develop throughout the album. ''Lend Me Your Love' is soft and perfectly pitched, with the rising and falling created by the interplay piano and guitar. The addition of horns adds wonderful layers of texture. The tender 'Unchanged & Alone' with it's soft picked acoustic guitar and almost military style percussion start slowly and builds majestical into a wonderful and moving song. We love the electric guitar solo which reminds us of the Tedeschi Trucks Band. The powerful Rock Gospel & Blues stompin toe-tapper 'The Reformation' would happily sit on a movie or TV soundtrack. Driving rhythms and guitar riffs complemented by super vocals from Joy. This is going to be a live favourite on tour. It takes it's influence from Jo's work with Amnesty International. We move into 'Beatlesque pop' for the sublime and softer break-up song 'Changing Of The Guard' "Brick by brick, see the changing of the guard. Lighting the way....Light of my life. You and me both we can hold is so close...The changing of the guard". The final song in the trilogy is another tender and personal song "Person Of Interest". It's ethereal and floating and almost has the feel of a bright summer Sunday morning in Paris on the banks of the river. Great guitar solo from Bryan Sutton. Doobie Brothers’ frontman, Michael McDonald makes a guest appearance and lends his harmony vocals to the retro, soulful and very catchy 'When We Were Young', one of the album's lead tracks.
For the heartfelt 'The Final Page' Jo is joined by long-time friend Terry Lewis who joins the very talented ensemble adding a majestic guitar solo. The piano led tender and very personal ballad 'Lonely Like Me' brings a gorgeous album to a fitting conclusion, it's lyrics inspiring the album title.