If you’ve been frequenting this site over the past few months, you may recall that I’ve written about San Francisco, CA and Big Sur, CA-based singer/songwriter, guitarist and producer Jenny Gillespie. Gillespie can trace her musical career to he childhood — during drives to and from the Springfield, IL area, where she was born and raised, she spent quite a bit of time harmonizing in the backseat with her sister, who is a gifted and renowned pianist. When the San Francisco and Big Sur-based singer/songwriter was 13, she picked up her mother’s Martin guitar and began putting the poems she had been writing to her own original music. Gillespie’s life was further changed when a local record store clerk gave her album from three of the 90s most renowned singer/songwriters Tori Amos, Sarah McLachlan and Shawn Colvin — all of whom quickly became major influences on Gillespie’s music and songwriting.
After stints living in Virginia, Paris and Texas, Gillespie relocated to Chicago, where she self-produced and then released her sophomore album, Light Year, a folk and alt-country album that received quite a bit of praise. And as a result the attention Light Year received, Gillespie met Darwin Smith, an Austin, TX-based multi-instrumentalist, with whom she wrote her third full-length effort, Kindred, a sparse, experimental, electronica-based effort recorded in an old house in Wilmette, IL with contributions from Steve Moore, who has worked with Tift Merritt and Laura Veirs and Dony Wynn, who has worked with the legendary Robert Plant.
Inspired by a volunteer trip to Kenya that led her to an African fingerpicking class at the Old Town School of Folk Music and studying for an MFA in Poetry at North Carolina’s Warren Wilson College, Gillespie found her sound and songwriting approach expanding and becoming more refined. By the fall of 2011, she traveled to NYC to record the EP Belita with Shazard Ismaily, a multi-instrumentalist who has worked with Lou Reed, Bonnie Prince Billy, and St. Vincent. Interestingly, that effort possesses elements of pop, folk music, African and Asian rhythms and tones.
Featuring contributions from Emmett Kelly (Bonnie Prince Billy) on guitar and Joe Adamik (Califone, Iron and Wine) on drums, her last full-length effort Chamma was released to critical praise, including landing on Billboard Magazine‘s Top 25 Albums of 2014 List. Naturally, that has seen Gillespie’s profile grow nationally — and continuing on that buzz, the singer/songwriter is set to release Chamma‘s follow-up, Cure for Dreaming through Narooma Records at the end of the month. Recorded over the past couple of months and featuring contributions from Paul Bryan (Aimee Mann), drummer Jay Bellerose (Robert Plant and Allison Krauss’ Raising Sand), guitarist Chris Bruce (Meshell Ndgeocello), guitarist Gerry Leonard (David Bowie), and pedal steel player Greg Leisz (Lucinda Williams, Bon Iver), the album reportedly possesses elements of folk, progressive jazz, and 60s and 70s AM pop.
The album’s first single “No Stone” paired Gillespie’s unhurried and husky vocals with a spacious and subtly jazz-like arrangement of keys, guitar, bass, gently buzzing electronics and hushed drumming in a song that felt as intimate as a lover whispering sweet nothings in your ear. And at the song’s core was a conversational lyricism that possessed a novelist’s attention to detail — both physical and psychological — as you can picture a woman who hides her face by the ocean, cherry blossoms in bloom, and someone peering through a keyhole to see a depressed woman struggling to just start her day. And as a result the song’s narrator feels like a fully-fleshed out person, desperately struggling to push forward.
The album’s second and latest single “Part Potawatomi” pairs Gillespie’s unhurried and ethereal vocals with a hummable melody, a deceptively simple arrangement of guitar, drums, bass and ambient electronics that sonically bears a resemblance to Junip — and their frontman, Jose Gonzalez‘s solo work. And much like much like the album’s first single “No Stone,” “Part Potawatomi” reveals a Gillespie’s remarkable attention to detail, as the song frankly discusses the slow and seemingly inevitable dissolution of a romantic relationship metaphorically described as a storm brewing over the shore. The song’s narrator seems to evoke the sensation of being trapped in a relationship that’s going nowhere out of familial and moral obligation — and as a result, the song possesses a subtle yet increasing feeling of frustration and regret, while being one of the more beautiful songs I’ve heard in the past 10 days.