Sunday, October 22, 2017

Gina Clowes - True Colors

Gina Clowes - True Colors  

The dozen songs featured on Gina Clowes’ True Colors reveal that Gina Clowes is a creative force beyond her current role as the as being far more than just the banjo player for Chris Jones and the Night Drivers. Her first solo effort shows that she’s not just a first class musician, but she’s a top shelf songwriter and capable vocalist as well. The album is largely devoted to songs with lyrics, but Clowes fortunately doesn’t resist the temptation to add some instrumentals to the track list and their inclusion makes True Colors a much richer, more varied release. She adheres to the bluegrass style for much of this album, but that sound comes about in different ways for her. Some of the songs on True Colors are straight forward traditional bluegrass while others put off a more confessional, Americana songwriter type of vibe, but she seems equally comfortable with both approaches. A couple of songs veer away entirely from the bluegrass mold and have more folksy origins, but they sound perfectly in keeping with the album’s mood and sonic architecture. 
The clawhammer banjo of Clowes’ brother Victor Furtado and Clowes’ own banjo playing team up with stylish effect on the album’s opener “Puppet Show”. This is certainly a more sharply worded, even a little barbed, reflection on a relationship and Clowes sings the words with just the right amount of resentment without ever careening over the line. There’s a low-key, simmering musical mood driving this song that exerts a strong effect over the listener. “Saylor’s Creek” brings all of the typical instrumentation to bear, but another family member contributes much to the final outcome. Sister, Malia Furtado’s fiddle playing has a lot of influence over the atmosphere of this instrumental inspired by an American Civil War battle and it adds a tremendous amount to other tunes throughout the course of True Colors. The album, as a whole, has quite a live sound and excellent separation of instruments – the players on this song in particular weave a colorful tapestry of sound that conjures the dramatics of the song’s subject matter. 
“Dust Can Wait” is another gem of an instrumental that sweeps the listener along at a brisk pace and has a little more stripped down sound compared to the previously mentioned tune. “For Better or For Worse” utilizes the guest vocals of Heather Berry Mabe to memorable effect and she gets deep inside this narrative about a struggling relationship. This is a song that knows more than it says and has real maturity that will resonate with many listeners. “Goodbye, Lianne” has the salutatory air implied in its title and trots along at a fine pace with each of the primary instrumentalists taking their turn with melodic breaks. “I’ll Stay Home” is much more of an acoustic singer/songwriter type of track and retains all of the personal touches common to the earlier songs whilst taking a different approach. We’re lucky to hear and see Gina Clowes’ many different faces on True Colors and it reveals a musical artist who has only begun to reveal the many layers of her considerable talents.  

Stephen Bailey

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