Through the Circle is a ten song album from Boston singer/songwriter Jennifer Truesdale, but she doesn’t limit herself to a particular mold. She has a clear sense of her own powers as both a songwriter and singer – tackling two covers the caliber of “Have You Ever Seen the Rain?” and “Love the One You’re With” serve notice about Truesdale’s confidence – and never shies away from pushing her art into new areas on Through the Circle. She falls into a traditional mode of sorts with the album’s first cut “I Need You Tonight”, but think of the song as a primer – we learn early on just how good of a blues singer Jennifer Truesdale is because, regardless of assorted excursions, the blues is a bedrock sound this album returns to many times.
The blues touch is a little more diffuse on the second track “Thinking of You” and, instead, a smokier mood pervades that Truesdale’s voice digs deep into. It offers listeners a sharp contrast with the first song; it is here you should know Truesdale is going to spread her wings. The follow up tracks “Daydreaming” and “Have You Ever Seen the Rain?” underline that potential. The first is one of the album’s biggest revelations of how blues and jazz can co-exist for a greater whole and glows thanks to Truesdale’s soulful light. I love the piano playing on this release and the drumming stands out on the former track as well.
The cover of the John Fogerty penned Creedence Clearwater Revival jewel “Have You Ever Seen the Rain” tales the album in a new direction. The mid-tempo folk rock of CCR’S initial version emerges on Through the Circle as dyed in the wool gospel with a soft pop touch. It is difficult if not impossible to miss the obvious consideration the song’s vocals receive. Truesdale strives for an obvious effect here and deserves credit for achieving it in convincing fashion. It might be a cold statement but, for me, it stands toe to toe with the original.
There are other instances of gospel strands running through her music, but the later track “We Will Not Be Forgotten” dives deep into that same sound. The rousing fervor of Truesdale’s vocal is pure artifice, it is a performance, but you can hear she is with each word and there is a near chest beat quality about the way both she and the backing singers attack the refrain. “River to Nowhere” is one of the best late songs on this release. The bold brass contributions charge it with attitude and it generates a steady yet irresistible push from the first.
“Love the One You’re With” doesn’t stray far from the classic version, really, but Truesdale’s take on the cut packs much more meat than its illustrious predecessor. Though Stills has a well deserved reputation, Truesdale is five times the singer in their respective primes and it is hard for me to believe Stills not being quite satisfied with her take on one of his many legendary tunes. Through the Circle is bursting with the voices and energy of performance art – music that, like novels and poetry can, depicts one of life’s situations in a way that may illuminate our own days. There are few finer gifts an artist can offer and Through the Circle is a vehicle for those moments.
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