Album review: Jennie DeVoe, "Strange Sunshine"

 

Strange Sunshine, Jennie DeVoe's best record yet, wisely foregrounds the Indianapolis-based singer-songwriter's voice, a soulful, raspy, bird-like instrument. Working again in Bath, England, with John Parish -- who also produced her 2004 album Fireworks and Karate Supplies, and has worked with Tracy Chapman -- DeVoe and company take a somewhat minimal approach to the album, filling in the space behind her voice with rock, gospel and some dirty blues. Drummer John Wittman provides solid but swinging backing while Greg McQuirk's work on Hammond B3, Wurlitzer and piano successfully matches the guitar work of Paul Holdman and Parish.

The bass and drums of "Exit 229" make you want to swing your hips, the song's background vocals and handclaps support DeVoe's tale of the good that can come from driving all night. The first single, "Butterfly," is a slice of AAA/Americana pop that has DeVoe gradually pushing her voice, grabbing on a sugary hook at the chorus. "Nobody Love You" has a retro jazz club sound that fades into the blues of "Shoulda Stayed" and the stark acoustic guitar and Hammond B3 opening of the hymn "I Break Down."

DeVoe wrote or co-wrote all but one of the songs on the album, with the Etheridge-like "Foolproof" contributed by another strong female artist, blues and rock guitarist Shannon Curfman. Strange Sunshine will be released July 21.

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