Album review: JO HARMAN – People We Become

JO HARMAN - People We Become

Sands Foley Entertainment [Release date 03.02.17]

So who the hell is Jo Harman?  Her 2013 debut album Dirt On My Tongue blended rock, soul, blues and jazz with a maturity way beyond her tender years.  Get Ready To ROCK!’s Pete Feenstra described it as a surprisingly mature a ‘after hours’ album ‘tied up with her evocative phrasing, pristine diction and a husky voice that swamps the lyrics in honey’.

She might hail from Devon, but Harman’s musical roots lie many thousands of miles away across the Atlantic in the blues and soul of the Deep South of the US of A.  Her gospel soulfulness reminds of Anita Baker, her pop sensibilities of Annie Lennox, and her mainstream singer songwriter appeal of Sarah McLachlan.  Benchmarks Harman clears with seeming ease.

My issue with both her debut, and People We Become, is that she doesn’t emerge with any clear self-identity or direction.

But by Harman’s own admission she’s not trying to fit in anywhere, but “trying to write classic songs, and present them with classic production.  When you try to chase what’s going on at the moment, then it’s going to sound old very quickly.”

In that sense, People We Become is mission achieved – an exquisite album rooted in the classic, timeless music of past generations (Julia Fordham, in particular, springs to mind), and quite possibly the finest female blue eyed soul vocal performance you’ll hear this year.

But there’s a certain irony that its primary appeal will lie with a generation who are most likely now grandparents, food shop at M&S, and whose annual holiday plans will include at least one cruise.  A facet magnified by a cameo appearance by Michael McDonald – the man whose soulfulness drained the Doobie Brothers of their own.

But, if you like your waffles served with a large dollop of maple syrup (as opposed to bacon and grits), and Michael McDonald at the ‘Albert’ is on your bucket list, People We Become will not disappoint.  ***

Review by Pete Whalley

Tour dates (Feb/March 2017)

EXETER PHOENIX, DEVON Thursday 2nd February
BROADWATER, WILTSHIRE MUSIC CENTRE Friday 3rd February
PARADISO, AMERSTERDAM Thursday 9th February
DORCHESTER ARTS, DORSET Saturday 11th February
JUNCTION 2 CAMBRIDGE Tuesday 14th February
MUSICIAN LEICESTER Thursday 16th February
JAZZ CAFE, LONDON Sunday 19th February
TRADES CENTRE, HEBDEN BRIDGE YORKSHIRE Weds 22nd February
BAND ON THE WALL, MANCHESTER Thursday 23rd February
BREWERY ARTS CENTRE, KENDAL, CUMBRIA Friday 24th February
1865 SOUTHAMPTON HAMPSHIRE Friday 3rd March
APEX, BURY ST EDMUNDS, SUFFOLK Thursday 9th March
JOE’S PUB, NEW YORK, USA Tuesday 28th March
ARTRIX, BROMSGROVE W. MIDLANDS Friday 31st March


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Power Plays w/c 2 September (Mon-Fri)

BAD WOLVES Killing Me Slowly (Eleven Seven Music)
THE DEAD DAISIES Righteous Days (SPV)
DEEP DEEP WATER Something In The Water (indie)
MICHAEL SCHENKER FEST Sleeping With The Light On (Nuclear Blast)
GHOSTS OF MEN Crooked Back (Regent Street Records)
ANNIE HASLAM Blood And Water (indie)

Featured Albums w/c 2 September (Mon-Fri)

09:00-12:00 MICK DEVINE Here Now (Escape Music)
12:00-13:00 MOB RULES Beast Over Europe (SPV)
14:00-16:00 THE PORTRAITS For Our Times (indie)

Albums That Time Forgot (Mon-Fri)

STACKRIDGE A Victory For Common Sense (2009)



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