Bullseye

Jenny Jarnagin

Independent release, 2014

http://jennyjarnagin.com

REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 08/22/2014

In a musical universe overpopulated with Katy Perry wannabes and d-i-y hipsters, it’s refreshing to find a female-singer-songwriter who combines appealingly melodic songs using real instruments with wise, mature lyrics and a rich, true voice.

With a piano-based contemporary pop feel that inevitably reminds of Carole King, and a soaring, ethereal voice recalling the likes of Sarah MacLachlan, Jenny Jarnagin delivers the goods on this album of originals—all hers, though some are reworked versions from earlier independent releases. Grammy-winner Bubba Smith’s production supports her intentions well, giving the entire album a warmth and polish that amplifies the power of these well-crafted tunes.

Jarnagin doesn’t waste any time grabbing your attention, as the smartly-arranged leadoff title track moves quickly from a contemplative opening verse into a powerhouse chorus. A sort of a coming-of-age tune for thirtysomethings, “Bullseye” is a celebratory song about learning to let go, “And then one day you’ll find, you have arrived.” Accompanied by a crack Nashville studio band that includes the likes of David Hungate (Toto), plus a full string section, Jarnagin knocks this one out of the park. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Constructed around Jarnagin’s rhythmic piano melodies, the best of these tunes have a build and ambition that can remind of Coldplay at times, but her lyrics dig deeper and demand more. “There’s My Baby” is clever fun, capturing the sort of dazzled dream-state people often lose themselves in while they’re in the process of falling in love. And “I Was Born” rocks out with layered guitars and Jarnagin’s soaring, pitch-shifting vocals.

One of the challenges of pulling off piano as a lead instrument in the pop-rock context is finding the right musical elements to complement it without overpowering it. For the most part, Jarnagin and Smith choose well here. “Big Broken Heart” combines a rock edge with banjo and trumpet accents for a rather Beatlesque sensibility. The ballad “Over The Edge” opens with just Jarnagin and her piano in a nightclub blues setting, before building into a full-throated climax featuring electric guitar and chorused background vocals, almost a Broadway feel.

Jarnagin occasionally feels like she’s forcing it a bit, as on “Soldier Of The Heart,” where the lyrics never quite fit the melody, and “Zero To Hero,” which deploys four co-writers to deliver what feels like the weakest lyric of the set. But these are minor blemishes on a very solid record.

The album’s closing one-two punch is a memorable one. First “Dealing With The Devil” delivers a full-throated gut-punch, as Jarnagin belts out a showy tune that wouldn’t feel out of place on a Meat Loaf album (and not just because of the hell references…). And closer “Okie Girl” is Jarnagin at her most beguiling, a stately ballad with organ and accordion accents and a spot-on rising chorus, a genuine labor of love.

Bullseye is a strong showcase for Jarnagin’s gifts as a songwriter, singer and piano player, a collection with range and heart and her unique voice at the center of it all. Count me intrigued.

Rating: B

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


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