Jennifer Leonhardt – Sovereign (Grassroots Records)
The label name couldn’t be more apt. This is music coming up from the earth, nourished by a passion to live and grow in the hearts of mankind itself. A bit over the top, you may think, but for me this album is a continuation of a heartfelt sound that goes back in time to when making your own music was one of the few things that gave people some solace at their workplace, and during those hard-earned moments when work was put aside to celebrate an event, like weddings, parties… anything; even just being alive.
This is music that has been shorn of any ‘extras’, music that is almost primeval in the way it has been constructed. Jennifer’s vocals are perfect in their delivery of these ten superlative songs, coming from her very heart, a slightly raw but refreshing voice that has belief running through its core. The production fits perfectly, as it too has a raw and uncomplicated edge to it, a homemade simplicity conjured from this live performance, with only acoustic guitar accompaniment, backing vocals occasionally (Juliet Tondowski), and a very gentle bass introduction on “Shoot U Up”.
She is a very fine songwriter. There are words here about life, shattered dreams, betrayal, but most of all love. The opening track “Taken Care Of” deals with life: ‘Having dinner… and my bike is leaning… against a wall… and I have to… take the trash out… and wash my hands… before my mother calls’. “America” shows us shattered dreams ‘I’m a Louisiana purchase… And a dry Dakota grain… Once was a man… made my heart move fast… I’d wait for him like a hillside… In a darkening plain’. Betrayal crops up on track five, “Belonging”: ‘Get yourself together… Or get you gone… There is no forgiveness… No heart of understanding… When you’ve stepped across… You’re as good as done”. I’ve left love ‘til last, because the fragile words on this subject are a far more common trait on this album, the aforementioned “Shoot U Up” being a fine example ‘Damn the spaces between us… Put your skin on me… Stain me all over… With your love’.
What Jennifer delivers here, with these ten heartfelt songs, is a tribute to love and life, and one that, should you miss out on, could leave a rather large hole in your musical character. Grand words again, maybe, but I have to try to convince you somehow, don’t I? Believe my words - listening to Jennifer sing her words maybe the only way to keep that character of yours complete.