I spent a marvelous Friday evening at the ever delightful Sola Coffee Café with two of my sons listening to the dulcet tones of Janelle True. She opened up with a well-chosen Norah Jones classic “Don’t Know Why.” It epitomizes the way she covers songs: while hinting at Norah Jones’s sound, the ebb and flow of rhythm and phrasing emphasis is all her own with an undercurrent of quiet power. As you listen to Ms. True sing, you hear her passion come through. Often her own songs are based on either an experience or her processing through the emotions from her experience. Whether it’s goodbye to her old life or recognizing the challenges of marching to a different drummer, the emotional intensity comes through. She is never afraid to wax a cappella or to pull back and let the quiet shine through. She brings to bear the right vocal tools at just the right time to express meaning and motion. She does all of this at Sola which, while lovely, is not a concert hall. Meals are being had, conversations are progressing and patrons are moving about. All relatively quietly and respectively, but it can still be a bit distracting.
The evening was a treasure trove of her original songs from Swept Away and Painted Pianos as well as covering well-known morsels including multiple Norah Jones and Birdy songs with a couple new ones thrown in. Indeed, she even mashed up a little Norah Jones “Come Away With Me” and Birdy (Bob Ivers) “Skinny Love.”
Ms. True wandered between keyboard and guitar as she wandered between original contemporary Christian works, contemporary covers and some classics such as “Stand By Me,” “My Funny Valentine,” “L.O.V.E” and “Love Me Tender.” One of the reasons I love to hear standards sung (besides the fact that they’re great and, hence, standards) is that it allows me to see how artists handle well-known material as well as providing an opportunity of separating their singing ability from the material; you don’t love the singer merely because you love the song. Ms. True handles the standards in her own inimitable way while clearly honoring the original. Here’s a little taste of that (from another concert) with “My Funny Valentine:”
Overall, it was a thoroughly enjoyable evening. If you have an opportunity to hear Janelle True live, take it. While her passion and power are communicated through her recorded work, it is more visceral live.
I also had an opportunity to have a little Q&A with Ms. True, but that interview, my friends, is for another post :) Just to appease you a bit, here’s “Lost at Sea” from Swept Away: