Jo Bartlett. 9 x 7. Strike Back Records

Jo Bartlett was a co founder of The Green Man Festival (held in Wales) back in 2003 and with partner Danny Hagan has released four albums as It’s Jo and Danny along with fronting a “psychedelic” instrumental band, The Yellow Moon Band. 9 x7 is her second solo album, deriving its title from the nine songs performed by seven musicians contained therein. With her past music described as “folktronica” in the press release it was somewhat disappointing to hear the opening song here, Dying Kiss, washed as it is under swathes of electronic keyboards with programmed percussion pinging and popping as if the eighties never went away. A pity, as the song and Bartlett’s voice are actually quite fine. Fortunately over the course of the album Bartlett relegates the synth like noises to the background allowing her songs some room to breathe although they never quite go away.

Measure Of the Storm has some proper strings and rippling guitars to guide it as Bartlett sets out on a folk rock voyage which has some of the urgency and dynamics of seventies folk rock about it. She repeats this on the breathless Rising To The Bait which has some rich guitar undercurrents churning under the lyrics. There’s a return to the rubber band percussion pops and synth strikes on Driven Away and again there’s a sense that unadorned this would pass muster, a feeling reinforced by the following ballad, Highway Found, which is delivered almost as if Sandy Denny were singing it and Jerry Donahue playing the guitar solo. A triumph then for this song and Bartlett follows it up with the superb instrumental Olympic which is an acrobatic tumult of strings and guitars that would not be out of place on an old Pentangle album. What Do You Say To That is a bold experiment with Bartlett’s voice echoed over gnarly guitar and insistent percussion that has its roots in John Martyn’s echoplex ruminations but it just doesn’t take flight. Advent is more successful as Bartlett revisits early Fairport territory when the Fairport’s were trying to be the UK equivalent of Jefferson Airplane or The Byrds. There’s a shimmer to the guitars, some sproinks and oinks from the electronic gizmos and a great throbbing bass line. To cap it all the album ends with the airy and billowing Suitable Drama which again bears comparison to the late Denny. Overall 9 x 7 is indicative of a fine singer and songwriter who has to decide which side of the fence she is on.

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