Gabrielle Jackson, Lotus, the EP (All Bad Records)
Had singer/songwriter Gabrielle Jackson’s
debut recording, Lotus, the EP (All Bad Records), come to me over the transom or via a publicist, the chances are that it would not have found a spot anywhere near the top of the “Listen” pile. No doubt the press release would have gushed about her youth (she was 19 when she recorded this; she’s now 20), her beautiful voice, and the unique circumstances of the recording process. (The album was recorded at Warehouse 508, Albuquerque’s Youth Art and Entertainment Center.) The release would also likely have played on the hardships this young woman has faced—poverty, domestic violence, and homelessness, just for starters. None of this would have moved me to push the album higher up the pile—just the opposite.
Lucky for me, I did not find Jackson’s album in my mailbox. Instead, I heard it for the first time a couple of weeks ago on Brandon Kennedy’s Freeform radio show on KUNM. Thanks, Brandon. Thank you very much.
What I heard that day was the opening act in what I hope will be a long and successful career, for Gabrielle Jackson can touch souls with her music.
Lotus is a solo effort, with Jackson on guitar and vocals, except that the vocals are multitracked—as many as 50 tracks at times—with lush harmonies and delicate counterpoints. She arranged all the music, and the vocals can bring tears to your eyes with their sheer beauty, as they did for me on the opening track, “Marble,” a love song to love and youth on “this big blue marble.”
The tunes are autobiographical and redemptive. They touch on a traumatized child’s prayer for “a shot in hell” (“Chess,” which includes the recitation of a poem by John S. Blake); a lament for the foretold death of a new friend (“Mary’s Song”); a lilting meditation on the hopelessness of poverty (“Mail”), which is an earworm of the first order; and a luxuriation in a moment of blissful satisfaction (“Time”).
While the album could be improved with a little judicious editing, what every track reveals is a remarkably mature artist—never mind her youth—brimming with hope and love, fully aware of the bumps in the road and with the bruises to prove it. Jackson sings with a soulful honesty in an alto that commands your attention with its simple directness and its uncanny phrasing and nuance.
She brings cool water from a very deep well.
You can order the album on Jackson’s website. It’s $10 well spent. You can also check out her
calendar for live appearances. For those of you in New Mexico, see her while you can. She leaves for an AmeriCorps posting in Georgia this September. Who knows when she’ll pass this way again.
© 2015 Mel Minter. All rights reserved.