Jenn Adams is having a party on Friday night, and everyone who knows about it is invited. Well, it’s more of a celebration than a party—a concert, actually, performed by Adams in connection with the release of her stunning second album, In the Pool. A CD release party, I guess you’d call it, although that phrase has always puzzled me—like, where do the CDs go after they release them?
Anyway, if you have any appreciation of great singer/songwriters and you don’t know who Jenn Adams is, well then, it would behoove you to park your butt in a seat at the Masquer Theater on Friday and find out. She is that good, and she lives in Stevensville, no less—talent always holds an extra shine when it’s local, does it not? Sheesh, as if me and you living here in Missoula had anything to do with vocal cords that spin sheer gold in a town 30 miles south of here.
It’s the voice that will get you first. It’s a spotless voice, as clear as a cloudless sky, capable of power and beauty and as fragile as an eggshell, sometimes all at once. And once the voice has lodged itself in the whoa! section of your brain, the quality of the songs themselves becomes apparent. Ten of the 12 cuts on In the Pool are original tunes, and they range from bluesy, harmonica-driven stomps to accordion-and-keyboard laments to spare testimonies riding the crest of that voice.
As far as production and musicianship go, In the Pool is about as far from the early-career/unknown-artist standard of crudity as possible. Produced by Nashville craftsman Frosty Horton (a fellow troubadour of Adams’ slipped him a copy of her demo tape) and populated by an incredibly talented crew of Music City studio musicians (alumni of bands belonging to Bonnie Raitt, Sam Bush and the Dixie Chicks, among others), the album rings and shimmers with clean melodies and meticulously assembled harmonies.
“They just blew my mind,” says Adams of her backups. “Frosty would describe a sound or a feel that he had in mind with one of my songs, or even a melody line that he would sing, and they would go through it once or twice. Frosty would say ‘That’s it!’ and we’d sit down to record it. Unbelievable.”
“1846” is a prime example of the disparate elements brought to union on the album. A frontier lament, “1846” is a thunderstorm of a song, a deep rolling bass line shot through with flashes of searing guitar and teased, strangely enough, by a muted trumpet that prevents the song from dissolving into complete chaos. “When Frosty first said, ‘I hear a trumpet in some of these songs,’” says Adams, “I thought ‘What?!’ but it turned out beautifully. He can take a song and use it like a palate—he can fill it up without overcrowding it.”
The album ends with a couple of cover songs, “All Along the Watchtower” (it takes metaphorical cojones to tackle a Dylan tune covered by nearly every bar band in existence, but this version is a fresh read—a sustained, tension-filled, mid-tempo groove until the final, explosive instrumental jam) and a gorgeous, lilting version of Julie Miller’s “Speed of Light,” of which Adams says, “What an incredible song—I wish I had written it. She’s a hell of a songwriter.”
And with In the Pool, she’s in good company.
Jenn Adams will perform a free concert at the Masquer Theater at 8 p.m. on Friday night. Admission is FREE. Check out www.jennadams.com for more details or call the Masquer Theatre box office at 243-4581.