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  • Jonathan Widran

JO HARROP, The Path of a Tear

On Jo Harrop’s previous albums, including her powerhouse pandemic era breakthrough The Heart Wants, the major story was that of a onetime backup singer for Neil Diamond, Rod Stewart and Gloria Gaynor at last emerging as the Nina Simone and Billie Holiday influenced jazz singer she was destined to be. The focus on the sensual, dusky voiced British artist’s latest masterwork The Path of a Tear, is on her development as a singer and songwriter from that point, with legendary producer Larry Klein guiding the way.


Having helmed dozens of jazz projects for the likes of Herbie Hancock and albums by influential vocalists (Madeleine Peyroux, Shawn Colvin and his ex-wife Joni Mitchell), Klein knows an anointed singer when he hears one. Introduced to Harrop by a jazz publicist and immediately wanting to work with her, he says, “Jo is a natural talent. Her singing and songwriting come straight from her heart. This kind of honesty is what compels me most in art.”


The collection’s numerous originals tap into her effortlessly authentic, straightforward storytelling, so beautifully and soulfully conveyed on every tune here from the breezy ballad “Beautiful Fools,” the haunting, jazzy and countrified blues of “Whiskey or The Truth” and the romantic, sad to start but ultimately hopeful and philosophical title track. Harrop complements her own heartfelt tunes (also including the sorrow-filled “Hurt” and the encouraging, chance-taking bonus track “Stay Here Tonight”) with beautifully rendered immersions into the lovelorn expressions of three legends, as she connects her own experiences to those of Leonard Cohen (a truly hypnotic “Traveling Light”), Elton John and Leon Russell (the frolicsome, tongue in cheek “If It Wasn’t For Bad”) and Steve Earle (the regret-filled “Goodbye”).


Sonically, the one thing longtime fans will notice is the intimacy of Klein’s production. Whereas The Heart Wants featured over 20 credited musicians and a song with a 21-piece choir, Harrop is backed here on each tune with the consistent magic of guitarist Anthony Wilson, keyboardist Jim Cox, drummer/percussionist Victor Indrizzio and, alternating on bass, Klein and David Piltch. Harrop has long been an amazing, multi-genre influenced jazz singer – but she reaches her greatest heights as a songwriter and vocalist on The Path of a Tear. Here’s hoping this promising  collaboration with Klein is just the beginning of more.     

 

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