Listen To: Jennifer Truesdale’s Through the Circle

Posted by Greg on May 29, 2019 in Music |

Can an artist make a statement even in the twilight of her career?

Spend some time with Jennifer Truesdale’s new album Through the Circle and you might change your mind. The Berklee alum has made a name for herself in the Boston music scene with the showcase series Chick Singer Night, which she launched in 1988 and continues to oversee. She is also a former staffer at Rounder Records and has worked on campaigns with the likes of Alison Krauss, Susan Tedeschi, Roomful of Blues, Irma Thomas and others.An advocate of promoting younger talent, the Berklee alum has a voice that needs to be heard to be fully understood. The first example of that is album opener “I Need You Tonight,” a jazzy and breezy romp featuring Truesdale’s titanic vocals, air-tight rhythm section and a knockout horn section. From start to finish “I Need You Tonight” is a stadium-ready powerhouse that definitely demands wider attention and larger stages.

She channels her inner Bonnie Raitt on the gorgeous blues cut “Thinking of You” before diving into a lounge, Rat Pack vibe on the lengthy and drawn out “Daydreaming.” One of the more interesting cuts on the album’s first half is a slowed-down, downtempo version of John Fogerty’s classic “Have You Ever Seen the Rain?” Truesdale’s take is nearly six minutes and takes a lot of creative liberties but never once does she depart in a way that leaves the listener haggard or spent. Truth be told it takes a lot of moxie to completely reinvent an ubiquitous song so for that alone, Miss Truesdale, we salute you. Through the Circle’s first half concludes with “Sunrise” a sleepy ballad that is in essence a torch song if there ever was one. This is classic standard fare akin to a late night lounge singer and while there’s nothing entirely wrong with that, it doesn’t exactly extend itself as being commercially viable.

Truesdale returns to form on the resilient and steadfast “We Will Not Be Forgotten,” a sturdy anthem about persevering despite adversity. Though the verses are a bit sleepy the chorus is first-rate and the song is one of the apex cuts on the album. When it comes to being commercially viable, “We Will Not Be Forgotten” is the kind of song that could absolutely flood TV markets, cinemas and streaming platforms. While the song does include a minute of motivational testimonials, the song is still a slam dunk.

The resplendent horn section returns on the towering “River to Nowhere” a breezy and effervescent jaunt through blues, soul, jazz and R&B in under four minutes. Once again veering closer towards the Rat Pack lounge singer vibe, “River to Nowhere” is proof that both her voice and her backing band are strong as ever. The album takes a bit of a dip on the doe-eyed “Moving Mountains” a song that’s a bit too pretty and maybe a bit too gussied up.

The song does rise after the 3-minute mark and makes for a stirring conclusion but the sedate opening leaves a lot to be desired. There are some that might find “Moving Mountains” the most powerful song on the album, but for us, this song is filler.. Maybe it’s a song that has to be heard to be live to be fully understood. But for us, it leaves us a bit meh. Ah well, can’t knock ‘em all dead.

Through the Circle’s penultimate effort is a cover of Stephen Still’s ubiquitous “Love the One You’re With.” Whereas the Fogerty cover was a total departure Truesdale’s version of Stills’ mega-hit is by-the-book, faithful and damn good. A sultry horn section makes the song that much more indelible. The disc closes out with “My Life,” a slow-moving, piano-tinged ballad that is gauzy, pristine and a bit too saccharine from the opening seconds. As one might expect the song builds towards a riveting conclusion and Truesdale offers some of her best vocals on the album.

While both Truesdale and Through the Circle might not end up getting their fair share, this is actually an exceptional record. Sure there are a few hiccups but the bulk of this album is absolutely worth the investment. Here’s hoping Truesdale finds herself in Florida one of these days. We sure would love to see her and that horn section live.

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