Jenny Jarnagin

Independent release, 2014


REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg


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


© 2014 Jason Warburg and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Independent release, and is used for informational purposes only.