Jane Voss is well known in folk music circles, both as a solo performer and as a duo with partner Hoyle Osborne, who produced and contributes piano to this recording.
But wait - Folk music in Blues On Stage? Well, hey, if one overlooks the rock influence endemic to modern blues, blues itself is folk music, isn't it? Of the people, by the people? Music, in short, that speaks of universal truths . . .
On this, her second solo outing, Jane presents 12 original songs of hope and inspiration, warmly enveloped in an all-acoustic palatte. Guitars, banjos and fiddles are joined by harmonica, a bit of cello, some piano, and accordion, all offering gently unobtrusive support. Sweet harmony vocals complete the picture, giving the project the feel of old friends gathered 'round the piano for a singsong.
Indeed, when listening to Jane Voss the phrase that comes to mind is "old-timey," with all its implications of heartfelt sincerity. Jane sings with an unadorned and unaffected simplicity - nothing forced about it, and I'd guess she's never spent much time with vocal coaches or the like. One of her songs is titled "Speak From Your Heart," and that's exactly how Jane sings.
The music ranges from slow waltzes ("A Long Slow Season") to a Zydeco-influenced romp ("Nobody Knows The Trouble I've Seen (Revisited)"); "Free At Last" is pure mountain bluegrass, while "Talk To Me About It Baby" has something of a swamp-pop feel to it - albeit "swamp-lite." Other tunes touch upon enough common forms that, as a whole, it seems safe to label the lot as "Americana."
Musical arrangements throughout are tastefully uncluttered, with each instrument given lots of room to breathe. Coupled with impeccable production, the resultant sound is warm, with an appealing resonance and immediacy that's again reminiscent of an informal gathering. Packaging, too, is first rate - care and attention to detail make a favorable impression even before the first notes are heard.
Blues fans, however - at least those who favor the electric variety - won't find much to scratch the itch here. Even the bluesier tracks paint a positive picture; indeed, what's missing here, for me anyway, is the fuller emotional spectrum of the blues. The dark side, if you will. Jane's almost unrelenting optimism leaves one wishing for some shadow and shade to contrast with the constant cheer. Life, after all, is more than love and hope; poop happens.
Bottom line? If you like folk music, and/or if your disposition leans toward the sunny side of life, "Farther Down The Road" is a lovely disc, as good as it gets.
Blues fans? Caveat emptor . . .
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