(5 / 5)
The editor sends over a batch of CDs and digital links to me on a regular basis, the new music he’d like me, as a contributor to the illustrious Music Republic Magazine, to review. But sometimes, it is just not a fit between my tastes and what I am sent. Not often that happens, but it does happen and in which case, I decline to cover that title.
There is also of course, music I ask to cover, which I pitch to the editor. So, to Jess Jocoy, a new name to me, and her second album “Let There Be No Despair”. As you will have gathered by now, I didn’t reject this one! Far from it…
I owe said editor a debt of gratitude for introducing me to a unique voice; a unique singer and songwriter whose material and vocal performance across 10 tracks really is very, very special indeed.
Washington state-born (two hours south of Seattle), Nashville-based, Jess teamed up with co-producer Brandon Bell for this new album, who worked with her on her debut album, “Such A Long Way.” Brandon’s previous work includes Zac Brown, Miranda Lambert, and Brandi Carlile.
This is a difficult task to pick out the best tracks from this set, because, in all seriousness, I ain’t heard one duffer among the 10 cuts. The voice, (yeah, that voice….), the songs, the arrangements, the players, the production…all faultless. Trust me when I say this is a rare thing, because I cannot recall the last time I felt that about a new album.
She melds a traditional folk approach with a pure country vibe and that thing they call Americana, whatever that really is! And she does it so, so beautifully. Her voice soars and prods the solar plexus. It is one part melancholy and one part rousing Blue Mountains of Tennessee, front porch story-telling.
Opening with “I Will Be Glad, it is clear from the off that this is quality. Class. Sonic gorgeousness x 10. Brian Allen’s bass parts add mahoosive value to the vibe here; on electric and bowed bass, and on cello. Jess plays acoustic guitar and provides backing vocals. Ethan Ballinger on guitars, mandolin and banjo. Lydia Luce on violin and viola. Matt Alger on drums and percussion. A real ‘A-Team’ of compatriots who serve the songs, as does Jess and her co-producer.
The self-penned songs here mix autobiography with imaginative character portraits. “The Gardener” paints the picture of a Montana woman who, unable to bear children, coaxes new life from the cold earth by planting a garden of flowers, while the haunting “Waiting to Exhale” deals with trauma, abuse, and a survivor’s steadfast spirit.
Jess sensitively trades on heartbreaking truth, and sings for those who have suffered and to show them there is hope, and there is light after darkness. She says of this album: “It’s a record for the days when life tries to break your heart. It’s a record for those who continue to seek silver linings… may we all be someone who seeks silver linings.”
Inspired by her mother’s rural hometown along the Arizona/Mexico border, she turns “Living in a Dying Town” into a portrait of a defiant resident who’s proud of her roots and willing to fight for them.
Jess has that natural vibrato the likes of country greats such as Dolly, Tammy and Loretta innately possess, and hers is a crystal clear delivery and diction. One of those voices that once heard, you’ll always recognise as her on the radio or on her releases.
If this album was dropped by a country or folk star, my money would be a Grammy win. It is that good. Jess Jocoy should be as big as any of today’s Nashville country stars, if huge talent as a singer and as a songwriter is anything to go by.
This magazine’s former columnist, respected UK country expert/writer Alan Cackett once said that Jess Jocoy is an exciting songwriter destined to be one of the greatest of her generation. When I read that on the PR blurb that came with the album, before I heard the tracks, I wondered if Mr C had been on the sherry! But now, I would heartily concur with the esteemed gentleman and say justice would be served if that were to come true.
Jess Jocoy: “Let There Be No Despair”. Stunning. The best country/singer-songwriter album of 2022 I have heard so far.
- Jess cut short a 22-date tour across the UK this month (June 2022) after only a handful of shows, to fly back to the US “due to unforeseen circumstances”. A real shame…
By Steve Best
(2 / 5) ‘OK Zone’
(3 / 5) ‘Decent Zone’
(4 / 5) ‘Super Zone’
(5 / 5) ‘Awesome Zone’