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Jennifer Lee RidleyJennifer Lee Ridley
Album: Think Not Of It, Sweet One
Label: Self Released
Tracks: 12

Jennifer’s passion for writing and composing music came to her at an early age. Her inspirations have always been an equal measure of both the poetic and the musical. In the former case, she’s always had a clear affinity with the work of approved models such as William Shakespeare, John Keats and William Blake, close exploration of whose sensibilities have enabled her to reach closer to the human soul. On the other hand, Jennifer’s direct songwriting inspirations have been Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Tori Amos and Damien Rice, while more recently her own songwriting has brought a more modern focus to her lyrical preoccupations. Her vocal style is warm and darkly expressive, often much reminiscent of Sandy Denny in both timbre and texture and its general phrasing and inflection, while her chosen musical backdrops are richly conceived and executed, on occasion quite heady. Jennifer plays flute, guitar and piano herself, but some tracks on this album (her debut, I believe – there’s no website or further information available that I could find) also feature string players – and a whistle player – in their scoring, although there’s no reference to them on the package, just a catch-all “recorded and mastered by Paul Midcalf and Rob Harvey” credit. And yet, there’s a strong sense of identity to Jennifer’s music, despite the apparently quite disparate influences: a warm fireside glow, a lyricism that nurtures intimacy and companionship but not complacency.

The lyrics to four tracks (including the title number) are based on poems by Keats, and not exactly well-known ones at that, but Jennifer has the measure of the Romantic style; her treatment of Christina Rossetti’s Twice is also appropriate, and the Shakespeare entry is his 35th Sonnet (tho’ surprisingly, in view of Jennifer’s stated predilections, the disc does not contain any Blake-sourced songs). You’ll observe that I’ve used the phrase “based on” rather than describing the tracks as “setting of” the work of these poets, for there is a subtle distinction… But actually, I often feel that Jennifer’s own original writing has even more to offer than merely complementing the directly-inspired works, and the disc contains five good examples, of which Shadows, the Joni-esque Where Have You Gone Again and especially That Time Of Year are probably the most fulfilling. But in the end, although Jennifer’s approach might be considered a little too homogenous for continuous listening. Even sometimes a little overwrought, I find her style very appealing and have enjoyed revisiting several of the songs on this album on an individual basis.

David Kidman