The second release from Ida Jo takes a turn toward the introspective. Recorded by a trio that includes Scott Lamps on piano and bass (who also engineered and produced) and Jordan Cohen on drums, the twelve songs are surprisingly vocal-centric. Most are slower tempo with spare backing tracks. Lamps’ piano, for instance, is mixed way down to an almost imperceptible level much of the time. The rhythm tracks are also understated resulting in the focus on the voice and melody. Unless my ears deceive me there are also sporadic guitars, though these go uncredited.
A couple of the tracks, “The Rising” and “No,” likely relate to recent political events, especially the latter. These don’t work quite as well as the more introspective songs and at times there is an aching for more instrumentation and feel. Nonetheless, Ida Jo’s voice is stronger and more confident as she’s not reluctant to put it center stage.
There is a distinct gospel undercurrent throughout which comes to the fore in the aptly named “Judgement” made complete with stomps and handclaps. Things get a bit jazzy (as in lounge) on “When My Ship Comes In,” one of three tracks penned by Lamps. Here the brushes used on the drums and the break to a 6/8 feel between stanzas are nice touches. Another Lamps composition, “Mama Always Said” employs 70’s soul a la Roberta Flack and any number of wah-guitar augmented selections from that era. Written from the female perspective, this one is a clear man warning.
The balance of the songs are meditative aside from “Quick Dance,” where the violin is used liberally in a nearly five-minute improv at the end. “For the Joy” is most beat-driven and here is where more instrumentation might have spiced tings up.
“Diamonds and Gold,” co-written with Lamps is a standout, showcasing Ida Jo’s vocals and layered violins. The title track is in a similar vein, smooth and soulful. The finale, another Lamps composition titled “Wind and Rain” has an Irish flavor to it.
Id Jo is obviously a driven artist with two releases in as many years while also guesting on several other recordings. She’s one of those “involved” people too – a special breed – evidenced by her leading the Midnight Voices a capella group of high school women, who nearly stole the show at this year’s MAMAs. It’s a good bet that she will find the perfect blend of players and material that will catapult her music beyond the mere sum of its parts. When and if that happens, there could be no stopping her. – Rick Tvedt