After giving Jenny Scheinman’s textured instrumental album Crossing the Field a few spins, I was ready to embark upon her self-titled vocal debut. Or so I thought…
Nestled into my easy chair with the windows open and the sprawl of the forest and pond spread before me, I was ready for the next chapter from the gifted composer, violinist, and now singer. Crossing the Field was a complex piece of music that sounded an awful lot like the vast soundtrack to a gorgeous film. It was often calming, often audacious, but never dreary. It fit the scene of the lush backyard.
If Crossing the Field is a verdant nature scene, Jenny Scheinman is a road movie. The vocal debut is sprinkled with folk, country, and straight-out rock and roll. Taking touches of Bob Dylan, Hank Williams, Patsy Cline, Dolly Parton, and some Pearl Jam-style jamming, Jenny Scheinman is a massive departure from the grandeur and jazzy tone of Crossing the Field. Jenny Scheinman quite simply rocks.
Opening up the album is the certainly appropriate “I Was Young When I Left Home,” a Dylan cover. A candid and sincere song, it seems perfect as an introduction to the stories that Scheinman is about to tell on the album. When the Sheryl Crow sounding “Come On Down” begins, I’m not nestled back in my chair any longer. I’m sittin’ up straight and I’m payin’ attention. The song is a solid rocker, powering ahead with effortless vocals, honest lyrics, and a driving band. It’s a ridiculously good song.
From there, Scheinman’s vocal debut unfolds gallantly. It’s a brave combination of country, folk, blues, and rock. It’s always easy and always honest. The album was recorded in Brooklyn, right in the deep roots of Tony Scherr’s home studio apartment straight to eight-track analog tape. The sound is often rough around the edges and it suits the music perfectly.
For her vocal debut, Scheinman sings with raw self-assurance. She knows the songs. She owns the songs. The songs are strong, like Mississippi John Hurt’s “Miss Collins” or “Twilight Time.” There’s a lot to love about Jenny Scheinman, that’s for sure.
The recording unfolds as naturally as one could hope for. With some songs recorded live as first takes with bleed and no overdubs or fixes, the album is straight from the heart. Other songs are smaller and acoustic, like the original piece “Newspaper Angels.” This intimacy helps draw the rougher stuff in even closer, giving the listener a complete picture of Jenny Scheinman as an artist and as a woman with a hell of a story to tell.
As the wind blows through the trees in the backyard, I can tell you that this album has been a journey. It’s been a trip through the imagination of Jenny Scheinman, complete with banged-up pickup, greasy spoon diner, and plenty of open road. As the album comes to a close with a Tom Waits number, I can’t help but smile.
Scheinman’s songcraft on her self-titled vocal debut is faultless. It’s unrefined, poignant, bona fide, and honest. There’s that word again: honest. Whether she’s honouring Bob Dylan, Lucinda Williams, or doing a Little Richard impression, Scheinman is always bold and always exciting. Back-to-back, Crossing the Field and Jenny Scheinman make for an extraordinary voyage through the melodic mind of one of music’s most remarkable and gripping artists.
Crossing the Field and Jenny Scheinman are available on May 27th from KOCH Records.