Here at Blabber’n’Smoke we hugely enjoyed Karen Jonas’ last album, the excellent The Southwest Sky & Other Dreams, so we were excited to receive this latest disc, albeit an EP with only four songs on it. So be it, it will tide us over for the time being.
Jonas, from Fredericksburg, Virginia, has over the course of five albums, proved to be adept at updating honky tonk songs and the Bakersfield sound while her song writing has grown to encompass the wide range of themes she tackled on The Southwest Sky. There’s more than a smidgeon of this on the EP but she opens with a bit of a surprise, her take on the Don Henley hit, The Boys Of Summer. First thoughts on this were, admittedly, that this was somewhat redundant, but listening to Jonas’ fine countrified rock version and then comparing it to the ‘80s synth ridden original, one has to admit that she quite owns the song. Her voice is in total control over the driving beat and swooping pedal steel and she kind of returns some of the song back to its original co-writer, Mike Campbell of The Heartbreakers.
Jonas seemingly was inclined to record this while grabbed by a writing frenzy earlier in the year which has resulted in an upcoming poetry collection, Gumballs, due out soon. Full of personal memories it led to her revisiting snippets of songs she’d started earlier but never completed. Going back to her notebooks, she chose three to accompany the Henley hit, going with a summer theme.
Summer’s Hard For Love is a nostalgic listen. Bathed in a languid and laid-back accompaniment with lazy acoustic guitars and slowly swooning pedal steel it has a touch of Neil Young’s Harvest Moon to it. Jonas sings it kind of sultry, kind of a mix of Patsy Cline and torch ballad singer. Thunder On The Battery, as its title suggests, is more portentous as the band limber up to create an atmospheric rumble. It’s akin to some of the songs on the last album. The EP closes with just Jonas and her guitar on Summer Moon. Close miked, it’s an intimate recording which proves she has the voice and song writing chops to place her amidst the top echelons of our favourite singer songwriters.