Kerry Jayne – Romance Of Many Dimensions – Album Review
Just a heads up for you all…there’s history here.
I had the privilege & honor of being Kerry Jayne’s first-ever interview back in 2013 when I met her on Vancouver Island. One of the sweetest people/artists I’ve ever encountered throughout the years still to this day, I’ve hung out at her place back when she lived in BC, I’ve had lunch with her and her new husband-to-be here in Ontario, she’s even gone to see my own folk’s folk-band Stone Poets this year where she’s based-out of now in Peterborough, and I finally had the chance to see Kerry play live again in 2019 when she hit up The Rainbow Bistro here in Ottawa with guests Hillary Dumoulin and Missy Knott (who are also fantastic artists you should know about & be listening to!). Like I said, there’s history here at this point – I’ve known KJ for nearly seven years to-date here; I consider her a friend and I’ve always been proud to say that since establishing our connection so long ago – I still am.
While it’s ultimately a snapshot view of a friend from afar, I’ve been able to see the progress she’s made as an artist over the years. I’ve been able to hear it too – I’ve got a well-worn copy of her debut album Wheels Of The Grand and I can certainly notice the evolution in her work, especially with the release of her latest record Romance Of Many Dimensions in 2019 revealing a much more confident version of what Kerry is capable of as a songwriter, singer & overall performer. On Romance Of Many Dimensions you can clearly hear that she’s settled into her role as an artist now…that she’s embraced the place where she’s meant to be. I saw it for myself as well, firsthand, when she played her latest set at The Rainbow Bistro; she was comfortable, calm, cool, collected, and put her heart on the stage for all to see.
I’m extremely proud of the lady…not only is she sincerely one of the nicest people you’ll ever hope to meet, I could tell from day one that her desire to play & sing outweighed so many artists & bands I’ve met throughout the years…that she wanted this more than most. Her new album reveals the growth in her music over the course of her journey, and essentially proves all the great things I’ve always known to be true about Kerry Jayne. It’s been awesome to hear her blossom as she has on Romance Of Many Dimensions; the days of being overcome by nerves as she first started out & we did more than a few run-throughs of her songs for our show SBS Live This Week back in 2013 are long gone – now you can see & hear KJ’s music as its always been intended to be, and the genuine professional she’s become.
With a delicate, immediately interesting, and somewhat mystical sound to the atmosphere she creates with her guitar on the title-track that opens her latest album, Kerry puts a deep cut on display to begin Romance Of Many Dimensions. Exploring multiple heartfelt and heavy emotions, KJ pulls us in with the serene dose of seriousness of her first song, putting a highly poetic spin on her lyricism that’s both personal and relatable. All set in the kind of luscious acoustic-based sound that’s as thought-provoking as the words are, “Romance Of Many Dimensions” reaches into an isolated & intimate setting that brings us all right into the gentle set-list to follow, retaining us through a purely inviting and curious approach that will have you listening to each & every word. Stunning clarity in the music…you’ll find guitars from James McKenty on this tune as several others on Romance Of Many Dimensions – he also recorded, mixed, and mastered the whole album, in addition to providing vocal harmonies and drum programming too. Definitely an essential part of this record for Kerry Jayne for sure, the haunting notes he provides on “Romance Of Many Dimensions” gives this first tune even more depth to go along with the main star of the show – and as a result, here and on many tracks of this record, you’ll find that this collaboration has certainly assisted in bringing out the best from KJ to-date. “Romance Of Many Dimensions” works perfectly as an opening with its hazy atmosphere and lost-in-thought lyricism/vocals from Kerry Jayne.
The shortest song on the record, “Sintaluta (The Tale Of The Red Fox)” introduces us to a few more guest-stars on the album, with Hillary Dumoulin and Missy Knott providing beautiful harmonies to the second tune from Romance Of Many Dimensions. Clearly a strong bond was formed along the journey at some point – as I mentioned earlier, KJ went on tour with Hillary and Missy earlier this year throughout several stops all over Ontario. With a similarly dreamy Cowboy Junkies-esque down-tempo vibe, the combination of the vocal talents you’ll find on “Sintaluta (The Tale Of The Red Fox)” are a huge part of what makes this work, alongside the poetic nature of how Kerry Jayne writes her words and sings the lead with such an honest & humble sound, you’ll find it’s the sum-total of the ingredients together that stack up to an engaging experience. I wouldn’t go as far as to say the guitar plays an entirely secondary role here on this second song, but kinda; it’s the lyrics and vocals that definitely pique the interest, and you’ll find that the majority of this tune rests firmly on the shoulders of everyone singing to pull it all off.
And if I’m not mistaken, Hillary and Missy joined Kerry onstage at The Rainbow Bistro to lend their vocal talents to “Red-winged Blackbird” when it was played live…I’m 99% sure they did…I’d have to check the tape to be sure, but I do know that they got up there to back Jayne up on a couple tracks that day. While I might be a lil’ fuzzy on which songs those were, what I can tell ya, is that I haven’t forgotten this song for a single moment. In fact, “Red-winged Blackbird” has such memorable hooks that I was singing this tune around the house long after the concert, and long before I’d even listened to the official record. In my world, that always tells ya something…that there’s genuinely something there that needs to be looked at further…that a song like “Red-winged Blackbird” has true single-worthy potential. In my opinion, it’s without question one of the most widely-accessible songs on Romance Of Many Dimensions. It’ll give you the emotionally-provocative lyricism that Kerry is proving to be so exceptional in creating, but also raise-up the standards when it comes to what sticks & connects to the hearts & minds of those listening. In essence, she retains her Indie-Folk integrity on “Red-winged Blackbird” without compromising her sound at all in incorporating a more distinctly catchy Pop-inspired chorus to this song – it’s a great move that both shows her evolution as an artist & songwriter, while also exposing that of which has always made her music enticing to listen to. It’s one of the record’s strongest tunes for sure; everything about this song gives it that sing-along aspect that makes you want to be personally involved.
Never underestimate the power of love. Another one of Romance Of Many Dimensions’ strongest songs in the set is certainly “Autumn 1994” – and there are several reasons as to why that is. Notably, you’ll hear the inclusion of drums for the first time on the album, and that alone makes an impact in filling-in the atmosphere of this song a couple more degrees for ya. James will show up on the guitars and backing vocals with one of his most remarkable performances as well, bending and shifting beautiful rich tones from the acoustic to the electric, and putting in essential moments into the melody of the harmonies you’ll find. ALL of these things are great to begin with…and even though it’s a more mid-tempo tune, “Autumn 1994” still has a more noticeable & lively spark fueling the whole sound & song. Now let me tell ya why that REALLY is…which brings us back to the original point – never underestimate the power of love. The words of “Autumn 1994” are actually written by Stephen Stamp, to whom Kerry Jayne is currently engaged to be married to. While I’d be the first to admit that husband/wife teams can lead to questionable results, proven many times throughout music’s history – when it works, it really works – and this song is a perfect example of that. The way that Kerry sings this song…it’s like she’s made them her own…as if she connected with exactly what Stephen had written so well, absorbed the imagery, sincerity, & meanings behind them, and communicated the sentiment & intentions flawlessly to us all. The results become a song you can hear that KJ authentically wants to sing – and the inspired performance she puts in on the microphone on “Autumn 1994” is one of the most magical you’ll hear from her on this album, no doubt about it. I’d also say that, she’s got a very Chrissie Hynde-like sound in her vocals on “Autumn 1994” too – and if that ain’t a reason to listen to any song, I don’t know what is. It’s a wonderfully quaint and comforting melody, maximized to its full-potential – I love this song and I felt like the combination of artists involved audibly gave Kerry the courage to bring out her A-game. While it might not specifically be a love-song, what you can undeniably hear, is the pure sound of love that went into every moment in creating “Autumn 1994” – and ultimately, that’s what makes it connect.
On a roll, the record continues to find strength in its substance, scaling-back the words to the bare essentials on “Battle Scars And Bruises” to make an impact through its main hooks and soulful singing from KJ. Weary and broken, down but not out – she makes the most of the longest song on Romance Of Many Dimensions by summoning the courage to sing about fragility with radiant confidence…to audibly prove that she’s a survivor, and stronger for having been through her experiences in life. Songs like “Battle Scars And Bruises” become important on different levels of significance…this is the kind of cut that someone out there will hear at a time they need it most, and find a soothing comfort in the mellow of the melody and how the words reflect a shimmering beauty and stoic toughness at the same time. Full proof that you can get through whatever comes your way and whatever life wants to throw at you – songs like “Battle Scars And Bruises” are designed to help with the healing process; partly a reminder to Kerry that she’s stronger now than ever, and partly a reminder that if she can overcome the obstacles and struggles she’s been through personally & as an artist, then it’s every bit possible that you can too. I like the space, pace, and flow of this song quite a bit, I must say…it’s another one of KJ’s tunes that can set you adrift into your own thoughts and examine your own world, filtered through her perspective & lens. Plus it’s another one of the highlight examples on this album of where the harmonies bring the words to life beautifully…from the lead to the background, everything comes out gorgeously here. It may be heartbreaking at times…that’s probably a given for anyone out there really listening to the words and the music surrounding them…but you’ll hear the strength of a soul’s redemption here too.
With a spectacular assist from the wonderful Melissa Payne’s fiddle and Dumoulin’s angelically soft vocals, Kerry Jayne takes on a cover of renowned Folk-Indie artist Gillian Welch, recreating a version of “Wayside/Back In Time” which draws closer to the version you’d find from the infamous artist playing live than the recorded original. KJ draws out the beauty of this song even further with a sparklingly subtle performance that focuses intently on the sincerity at the core of the melody. Hearing Hillary and Kerry sing together here, you can fully appreciate just how much the two styles & sounds of their vocals can be so complementary to one another. The guitar is sweet, low-key, and perfectly gentle – the fiddle from Payne is a brilliant touch…arguably essential if you’re going to cover a song like “Wayside/Back In Time,” but nonetheless a necessary inclusion to this particular version with what ends up being contributed to the music surrounding the vocals of this cover. Always a heartwarming experience to listen to an artist do a version of one of their own hero’s songs when you can tell they truly care about the material…not a doubt in my mind that listeners familiar with Welch’s original will hear that here. Rumor has it as well, that Kerry will be putting out a brand-new video to support this cover…looks like a date of January 19th, 2020 – just in time for my birthday right around the corner on the 25th – how sweet!
KJ’s got an interesting style of storytelling from the mic and in her music that often takes her into songs that are defined as a whole, rather than making a more obvious attempt at separating verse/chorus/verse…some tunes drift through their length without seeming to worry about making any one hook stand-out as opposed to the entire tune, like she does with “Faded View.” That’s not to say that these traditional parts of the song don’t exist…for sure, there’s a verse & chorus here – but you’ll find in the way it flows that Kerry effortlessly streamlines the process and eases us into the experience in a way that helps us appreciate “Faded View” from beginning to end without waiting for our favorite part to come along, know what I mean? A tune like this is one that you dig in its entirety…for the poetic aspect that’s built so much strength in her material throughout this record, to the gentle complement the music becomes, to the beautifully natural and compelling way she crafts her vocals to suit the song. It’s one of the shorter cuts on Romance Of Many Dimensions, and there’s a possibility that at first in comparison to the majority of the songs on this record, that it may get overlooked on those initial spins through the album…but ultimately, it’s songs like this that help secure the strength of the entire lineup.
“Life Would Make Sense (A Song For My Brother)” brings the content a lot closer to home for Kerry Jayne, diving deep into a personal tale of reflection, nostalgia, longing, loss, and love throughout the lyrics. Like many of KJ’s songs, you’ll find a fantastic mix of heartbreaking & heartwarming themes combined together, shining in remarkable contrast. I love the way the glow of the music surrounds her at spots like around 2:30 or just past the three-minute mark of the song, giving it just enough lift to out of the darkness and into the light that we can appreciate both its ever-present sadness and admiration. She excels in her writing here…”Life Would Make Sense (A Song For My Brother)” really puts her heart on display in such a way that it couldn’t possibly be missed…there’s no doubt she spends a lot of this song in pain, yet transmits that to us in a truly beautiful way that pays tribute just as much as tells the story. Arguably this is one of the more ambitious tunes you’ll find on Romance Of Many Dimensions, but also an experience that Jayne is able to communicate completely, making an impact through the bold contrast in her words and delicate vocals revealing a unique mix of stark fragility and strength. The chorus echoes a sentiment that many will be able to relate to…the feeling of comfort and simpler-times – “we would laugh and life would make sense,” is a brilliant phrase that draws out the message in-full.
You know what else makes a whole lot of sense? Where she sings “Am I dreaming/what am I seeing/April Snow…” on the final song on the album. And look…I get it…she’s been metaphorical and alluding to love, isolation, loneliness…but I swear when I moved out east to Ontario and saw my own first “April Snow” I questioned whether or not I was dreaming and what the heck I was seeing as well! Back in Vancouver, we had winter…it lasts somewhere around January 10th to January 12th by comparison to this province, where the winter months occupy approximately half the freakin’ year. No lie – it’s actually quite a shock to the system when you move here from the west and aren’t used to it…there was no such thing as “April Snow” back where both Kerry Jayne or I used to live in BC. Anyhow – you’re not here for a weather report, you’re hear for the music, as am I. “April Snow” is an excellent exit from the record, ending Romance Of Many Dimensions on a somewhat desolate and “far away” fashion, but man, what an exceptionally beautiful design and sound this last song truly has going for it. Another top-shelf assist from the fiddle of Melissa Payne and a wonderfully hypnotic & mesmerizing set of vocals from Kerry Jayne to end her second record; not a thing out of place, nothing I’d change, I think she’s done a captivating job of bringing a cold beauty and emotionally warm tone to the atmosphere. KJ puts in another noteworthy performance here on the microphone, so controlled and right on the mark – and you gotta admire the rest of what you’ll hear as well. Payne shines, the guitar sparkles, the backing vocals add a haunting presence that hangs in the air as Kerry examines nature, navigating her thoughts and feelings as this last song makes a sweet & subtle impact you’ll appreciate as the sensory experience it truly is. With the imagery in the words she’s chosen and the remarkable way she sings and expresses them all within the icy cold themes of “April Snow,” she finishes off Romance Of Many Dimensions with a solid mix of questioning lyricism and humbly sensitive charm that puts the cherry on top of what’s been a seriously excellent all-around set of songs throughout the course of her latest record. It’s an ice-cold cherry mind you, but still a cherry nonetheless…Kerry Jayne has really come into her own – and this entire record proves it. Really well done, well-written and well-played KJ – I’m proud of her – and I sincerely hope that she’s equally proud of what she’s accomplished on this album as well…she certainly should be.
Find out more about Kerry Jayne from her official website at: https://www.kerryjaynemusic.com
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