For the past couple of years I had a wonderful working relationship with Motema and their artists only to have one self absorbed vibe player essentially ruin everything but that is not why I'm here. (Although the odds of us exchanging Christmas cards has dramatically dropped).
Objectivity... Of course my initial reaction was not to look at any of the Motema product and to be perfectly honest, something, someone, or some label had to give and it only happened to be Motema. Over 1200 reviews per year is a lot of music for one person to sift through.
Jana Herzen is the founder, chief cook and bottle washer and head of Motema Records and has just dropped Passion Of A Lonely Heart. A release she ironically did not seem to anxious for me to write about before the relationship went south. Ironically...it is pretty good. Apparently Herzen's artistic bent is every bit as solid as the label she runs. Impressive. "Tis Autumn" along with "My Baby Just Cares For Me" both with an incredibly relaxed swing are a couple of highlights for this release.
Herzen is paired with stellar bassist Charnett Moffett in an acoustic setting that has the whole Joni Mitchell vibe going on but...for the most part it works for me and works well. Moffett is a rock star bassist, solid and dependable and as lyrically fluid as one can find so no worries there.
While I have run through more female vocalists this year then I can count and the good vocals you can count on one hand...Herzen is perhaps one of the most underrated vocalists in music today. Nice phrasing, a beautiful tone, and a keen sense of melody put her vocal chops incredibly high on my list. In the eleven song set however some of the compositions bordered slightly on more of a cocktail hour jazz sound which simply isn't my thing. The lyrics were a little less than engaging but once again - not my thing.
If however the whole organic, acoustic, eclectic sort of hippie chick vibe is right up your alley then this is actually a pretty solid release. Vocally I would give Herzen 5 stars. I would give the lyrics a 3 so she walks away with a 4 out 5...Bet you never saw that coming! While no label has ever pressured me into a review, sometimes writing because you want to and not because you have to is a beautiful thing.
Tracks: Tis Autumn; Bali Holiday; Passion Of A Lonely Heart; Spain, I Remember; Earth's Heart Beats; Night Blooming Jasmine; Sodade; Secrets Are Safe With Me; My Latin Love; My Baby Just Cares For Me; Here With You.
Personnel: Jana Herzen: vocals, guitar; Charnett Moffett: bass.