Boston’s Jennifer Truesdale opens her album Through the Circle on a bluesy note with the song “I Need You Tonight”. The song’s understated bite of blues guitar is complemented well by spot on drumming and rollicking piano lines rolling just below the surface of the mix. Truesdale’s vocal is a highlight throughout the entire song, but strikes deepest when the song reaches its chorus and we hear the full breadth of her vocal strength for the first time. It’s an exhilarating moment. She has academic chops backing up her talent, but there’s nothing staid or formal about this album opener. “Thinking of You” is a much more sedate number with a soulful R&B texture free from any dissonance and perfect for late night listens. Truesdale dials back the guitar presence and her voice duets with piano and keyboard fills adorning the arrangement.
There’s a blues spirit filling the third track “Daydreaming” but the song ultimately reveals itself to be closer to a big band jazz influenced number. The connections between these genres are, of course, plentiful and they share common roots, but Truesdale stands out for serving up a performance that takes those roots in a personal direction. If the songs aren’t autobiographical, she never fails filling them with a sense of stakes and frailty. Her cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Have You Ever Seen the Rain?” remakes the mellow rock classic into a gospel heavy track. This is what a cover can be – not just a straight tribute to a classic number – instead, it shows how Truesdale’s creative instincts cannot help but take it in a different though rewarding direction.
Piano is an important instrument through the first half of Through the Circle and the percussive quality of such accompaniment, often obscured by its melodic value, gives this track a layer of added urgency. Its small affectations like this that can transform a song for some listeners. The anthemic qualities of “We Will Not Be Forgotten” are obvious but, perhaps less so, are the gospel influences continuing from the Creedence cover. It has a thoroughly modern polish, however, and the backing vocals enhance the soul bursting from this tune.
“Moving Mountains” is a departure from the gospel style and shows the wide range of her vocal talents. She inhabits a graceful and languid pop landscape with the same emotive force powering the earlier songs. The careful modulation of her performance never feels too plotted out or unnatural; instead, you sense the care she takes with striking the right note. “Love the One You’re With” is the album’s second cover and much closer to the Stephen Stills original than the earlier Creedence cover, but there’s a stronger electric guitar presence in Truesdale’s take on the tune. Through the Circle is an album that makes a statement today and lays groundwork for the future. Jennifer Truesday’s new album is a diverse and vibrant collection sparkling with the magic of art and will entertain anyone who rakes a chance on its charms.