Accomplished 60s soul set from Jodie Marie that channels Amy, Aretha and more
Release Date: 12th February 2021
Label: Carmel Records
Formats: CD, Vinyl, Streaming
She’s a new name to me, but Jodie Marie has been around for quite a while and, on the evidence of her new album, The Answer, I really don’t understand how I’ve managed to miss her. Jodie entered the world in 1991 in Narberth Pembrokeshire as Jodie Marie Warlow, the younger daughter in a musical family. She was performing publicly from the age of seven and she signed her first record deal at age 16. She’s released two previous albums, Mountain Echo (2012) and Trouble In Mind (2016), both of which were critically well-received but failed to attract the widespread recognition that Jodie’s songwriting, musicality and above all, her rich, soulful voice so clearly deserves.
Along the way, she’s worked with Suede’s Bernard Butler and singer/songwriter Ed Harcourt and, on this latest offering, her collaborators include Ed and Gita Harcourt and Dan Smith of London’s Noisettes. And – not to beat about the bush – this album is a Triumph.
Jodie cites a list of influences that include Bonnie Rait, Aretha Franklin, Amy Winehouse, The Black Keys, Fontella Bass, Lesley Gore and Carole King. Those influences all shine through, some more vividly than others, at different stages of the album. Production duties have been shared between Jodie’s partner, Owain Fleetwood Jenkins, Ed Harcourt, Dan Smith and Gethin Pearson with the objective of recreating the Stax sound, and, certainly in my opinion, they’ve absolutely nailed it! The backing is generally sparse, with bass well to the forefront of the mix.
The sound is filled out by tasteful sprinklings of organ and piano, some wonderful, restrained guitar and uncomplicated percussion. Because, let’s face it – this album is all about that wonderful voice, which the thoughtful instrumentation and the subtle production has managed to frame it perfectly. And what a voice it is… the delivery is not as obviously soulful and passionate as Aretha’s (let’s face – that just isn’t possible) but Jodie’s restraint, intimacy and sheer tunefulness add a different dimension and make these songs a delight to listen to.
Opening track, You Are My Life, gives an early example of that sought-after Stax sound; it’s a funky yet intimate tune with a real mid-60s feel and a great taster of what this album is about. The Stax party continues with the second track, Ain’t No Doubt About It, a funky, poppy number that builds beautifully into a full-on soul tune.
We get the first glimpse of Jodie’s mellower mood with Carageen, the album’s first single (named after a species of seaweed that is common along the Pembrokeshire coast). It’s a slow, contemplative, folky number, with some nice glockenspiel touches that enhance the song’s evocative feel. A Whole Lot Of Loving returns us to 60s soul, this time with a strong recollection of Fontella Bass and the raucous R&B of Curse The Day revives memories of Amy Winehouse at her best.
Kiss These Tears Away, The Answer and Saving Grace are three of the album’s strongest tracks and all demonstrate Jodie’s talent for writing and delivering a slow, sad ballad. Her vocal on Kiss These Tears Away is breathtaking and the band are on top of their game as solid bass and some wonderful bluesy, sparse guitar capture the Otis Blue sound to a tee. According to the press release, the title track The Answer was almost left off the final cut. What a relief that it wasn’t! It’s yet another excellent example of restrained instrumentation giving a spotlight to more superlative singing and a truly authentic 60s soul feel. Saving Grace is, arguably, the best track on an album packed with great songs. Jodie wrote the song as a tribute to her grandparents whose mutual love and attachment to each other have provided true inspiration. The song’s sad, heartfelt lyrics are particularly poignant during a time when many such relationships are being prematurely torn apart.
For Hanging By A String, Jodie adopts the guise of Carole King on a mature ballad with an instrumental backing that showcases the skills of the production team to optimum effect. Don’t Go Telling Me (That it’s Over) is yet another slice of accomplished 60s soul, before we take another departure from the album’s main theme with This House. This, the album’s latest single, aims to recapture the sound of 60s/70s rockers Free, and, once again, it succeeds marvelously. The song’s phrasing arrives direct from Fire And Water, the bassline is pure Andy Fraser and it’s so easy to imagine Paul Rogers and the guys rocking their way through this one. And it’s a great song too!
You’re Going To Miss Me (When I’m Gone) is one last piece of 60s funk, to round off a thoroughly enjoyable album. The Answer was recorded at Carmel, a former chapel in the Pembrokeshire countryside that was bought and converted to a residential studio in 2017 by Owain Fleetwood Jenkins. Jodie and her collaborators have clearly benefitted from the solitude and ambience of Carmel and have come up with something pretty special. Make no mistake, The Answer is an excellent album from a very talented lady and it deserves attention. Please give it yours.
Watch the Official video for Carageen, the first single from the album here: