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JENNIE ARNAU creates a unique blend of New York-nurtured South Carolina-born Grassroots rock. Her original blend of Americana, Alt-Country and rock along with her bold and bittersweet voice have lead more than one critic to describe her as a cross...
JENNIE ARNAU creates a unique blend of New York-nurtured South Carolina-born Grassroots rock. Her original blend of Americana, Alt-Country and rock along with her bold and bittersweet voice have lead more than one critic to describe her as a cross between Neil Young, Martina McBride and Alanis Morissette. It’s a sly underground sound that’s born of urban grit and rowdy southern sensibilities and it perfectly suits this native South Carolina singer. It’s not a voice that has gone unnoticed either – Chuck Eddy of the Village Voice wrote that Jennie was capable of “a husky uplift and rhythmic wallop rarely heard in the female-folkie field, Singer Magazine praised Jennie’s ability to “pierce your heart one moment, then turn right around and calm your spirit the next” and No Depression described her voice as “strong without sacrificing its femininity.”
Building on Jennie’s 2007’s release, MT. PLEASANT, which garnered rave reviews in No Depression, Relix and Honest Tune (to name a few) and which Joe Levy of Rolling Stone hailed as “her most fully realized set of songs yet. If you care about the struggle for love and happiness - and who among us doesn't? -- this one's for you”, a successful year of touring in 2008 including performances at major festivals such as Wakarusa, FloydFest and Sleeping Bear and Dunegrass and important venues such as World Café Live, The Mercury Lounge and Sullivan Hall, CHASING GIANTS might be one of the most compelling indie record releases of the year.
Jennie was determined to find a producer who would understand her alchemy of grassroots Americana and indie rock and sent Trina Shoemaker a demo (Sheryl Crow, Queens of the Stone Age, Emmylou Harris). The busy producer got back to her quickly and the two collaborators, along with Jennie’s recording engineer Phil Palazzolo (Neko Case, The New Pornographers), quickly got to recording CHASING GIANTS.
Jennie’s core band includes drummer Alan Lerner (Zen Tricksters), guitarist Rod Hohl, bassist Skip Ward (Phoebe Snow, Steve Martin, Bela Fleck) and keyboardist Pete Levin (Blind Boys of Alabama). Special guests include Al Schnier (moe.), Noam Pikelny (Leftover Salmon, Punch Brothers), Kevn Kinney (Drivin N Cryin) and Rich Hinman (Ben Kweller).
After releasing three prior albums on her own and enduring a couple of years of traumatic or watershed events, Jennie needed to take stock of her music and her career. “For a long time I was scared of the music industry and buried myself in other things,” she says, “but my downtown musician friends finally pushed me out of the nest. And here I am.”
From the yearning and hopeful journey of “Bouncing Ball” to the playfulness of “For the Winter,” Jennie smartly embraces both the subtle artistry of alt-country and indie sensibility. She’s not afraid of the ache in her vocals and her lyrics; in fact, Jennie says that it’s that very conflict of her multi-dimensional life, her loves and her losses over the last years that have fueled the “openness” and honesty of the album.
“It sounds strange,” says Jennie, “but when I went into the studio with Trina, I really didn’t know my voice. But she showed me that I knew my music better than anyone and that I had a clear vision. I learned a lot and she gave me the confidence I needed to make this album.”
And Jennie approached tracks like “Beautiful Life” with that newfound confidence. “It’s the happiest song I’ve written,” she laughs. “It came together after seeing a band at SXSW in Austin. A really fun outdoor hippie show at night at a place called the Enchanted Forest. It made me realize that life can be really great and simple if you can let it be.” This attitude also shows on “The Sharp Things” which shows how “the simplest things are the things that can make you the happiest and hurt the most.”
Who and what has influenced Jennie as a singer? Given her professed fondness for “interesting voices,” Jennie’s choices are eclectic, ricocheting from Jeff Buckley to Ani DiFranco (“when she’s not growling”) to Aimee Mann and Johnny Cash. “Any voice that makes you melt,” Jennie explains. “A voice that’s distinctive, confessional … that you feel the lyric through the voice.” And what of her own lyrics? “I like to think of myself as a storyteller,” she muses. “I do like my songs to have a beginning, a middle and an end. And while I do write of sadness in my music, it’s all in perspective. I’m not self-indulgent.”
Stories abound on CHASING GIANTS, from the traditional-sounding “Safe Tonight” to the pleading tale of “Saviour.” But ultimately, it is the uniqueness of Jennie’s explosive voice that truly defines each of these songs, marking an indie debut as compelling as that of Patty Griffin or Ryan Adams.
For a woman who grew up in the foothills of Appalachia, but who has thrived in New York’s downtown music scene since the late 90s, Jennie has long explored the curious dichotomy of her artistic temperament. But she sees CHASING GIANTS as the “coming of age” album she has long sought to record.
“I’m really so proud of this album,” says Jennie, who wrote all the songs on CHASING GIANTS. “I’ve returned a little bit more to my country roots. I think it’s modern but has a more organic feel and although I’m still a singer/songwriter it stretches the blending of various music styles.”
Roliing Stone by I've known Jennie for years.She has a big voice and an even bigger heart.You'll come to know both intimately in this, her most fully realized set of songs yet. If you care about the struggle for...
No Depression by Although she lives in New York City now, Jennie Arnau grew up ion South Carolina. Listening to her new album, the title of which refers to the coastal town where Arnau used to vacation, one is...
Roliing Stone by I've known Jennie for years.
She has a big voice and an even bigger heart.
You'll come to know both intimately in this, her most fully realized set of songs yet. If you care about the struggle for love and happiness
- and who among us doesn't? -- this one's for you.
Joe Levy, Rolling Stone
No Depression by Although she lives in New York City now, Jennie Arnau grew up ion South Carolina. Listening to her new album, the title of which refers to the coastal town where Arnau used to vacation, one is reminded of the old adage about being able to take the girl out of the country but not the country out of the girl. Produced by Trina Shoemaker (Lucinda Williams, Queens of the Stone Age, Emmylou Harris), Mt. Pleasant curiously adds a hint of west coast folk to the prevailing Americana sound of songs such as "Float On", "You're Not Alone" and "Bottle Rocket". The best track, "To Live Without Love", features an airy guitar riff that nicely weaves in and out of Arnau's voice, which is strong without sacrificing its femininity. She might reside in the Big Apple, but to paraphrase James Taylor, in her mind Arnau's gone to Carolina.
Honest Tune by A healthy dose of country reverberates from the first single “You’re Not Alone” off of singer/songwriter Jennie Arnau’s recent release, Mt. Pleasant. This year’s full-length album is destined to be a hit with college radio, Americana music fans and genre-riding cowgirls half at home in country western and half in ass-kickin’ rockand roll.
“Who Will Come With Me” is edgy and gutsy, filled with thick guitar and entrancing organ. Dramatically the tempo drops and “Holidays” shows a more seductive and jazzy sound from the singer. The album as a whole shows great depth and eclectic influences ranging from jazzy and light to dark and mysterious.
Not only does the great singer write solid songs, she has a tasteful band backing her. Adam Lerner’s guitar intro into “Margaret” flows effortlessly in to possibly the most appealing song of the album. When the mandolin and cello come about on “Hang The Moon,” the album sees it’s best instrumentation. Seductive piano, accompanies the deep rich tones of the cello and Jennie’s voice flows effortlessly atop of the masterpiece.
Poughkeepsie Journal by Straight out of Greenville, S.C., where her father oversaw the looms at a textile factory, Jennie Arnau 15 years ago arrived in New York and set out to conquer the big city and become a music star.
I had been to New York City once, in college," Arnau said. "I had a great time. I came up with friends. But when I moved up here, it was just so lonely. It was incredibly lonely. It's such a big city. My first night, after my mom left, I thought I made a doozy of a mistake. I was scared.
Arnau's parents helped her pay the rent and she got a job - working the overnight shift at The Gap, folding clothes and cleaning up, all night long.
I was really not just green, but kind of ignorant," Arnau said. "I didn't really know of places where people played or where things happened and I wasn't around people who were interested in that. For a long time, I didn't realize there was CBGBs or The Wetlands. I didn't get any of that. That took a while. I was really slow on the uptake getting my music working.
Everything turned around for Arnau when she moved, uptown to downtown.
More than a decade later, she has released a record, "Mt. Pleasant," produced by Grammy-winner Trina Shoemaker, who has worked with Sheryl Crow, Queens of the Stone Age and Emmylou Harris. Two tracks were mixed by Stephen George, who has worked with Mary J. Blige and R. Kelly.
Arnau, who still lives in Manhattan, is set to perform in Woodstock Wednesday at the Colony Cafe.
I really love it up there," she said of the Hudson Valley, Saugerties and Woodstock in particular. "I kind of, in the long run, would like to move up there.
Arnau's voice shifts from quiver to bellow, revealing her southern roots, but evoking San Francisco psychedelia, a la Grace Slick and Jefferson Airplane. She comes across as vulnerable and assertive, flaunting an in-your-face attitude, much like Grace Potter, but never shedding her delicate, feminine side.
You can check out Arnau's live performance in Woodstock and see what she has already brought to some pretty big venues - Arlene's Grocery in Manhattan, the Mercury Lounge in Manhattan, World Cafe Live in Philadelphia, Sullivan Hall during the Green Apple Festival, the Wakarusa Festival and Floyd Fest.
Arnau has been carving out a career, after pounding some pavement. And you really have to respect that.
That move, from uptown Manhattan downtown, seems to have really shaped this singer-songwriter.
Relix Magazine Profile by Jennie Arnau may be a woman who sings and writes songs, but don’t-under any circumstances-call her a female singer/songwriter. “I feel like when you try to describe my music, people always describe it a ‘woman singer/songwriter’ kind of thing. I fell like it’s got more depth to it, and a stronger sound. I don’t think of myself as an acoustic singer/songwriter-I think it’s a little more electric”.
The evidence is in her favor. Her album, Mt. Pleasant, was primarily produced (and mixed) by Trina Shoemaker, who has previously worked with everyone from Queens of the Stone Age to Sheryl Crow. It’s full of country-rock songs that bite in a classic way, calling to mind lauded artists like Neil Young and Lucinda Williams. That’s got a lot to do with Arnau’s upbringing: Though she now lives in New York, she grew up in Greenville, South Carolina, learning about music from her sometimes keyboardist/textile-worker dad. “We’d sit around when we were little,” she says, “and he’d play his records and give us a quarter if we could guess the artist.” Her favorites? John Denver, Chicago and Van Halen, a motley crew that leans on both the power and melody that Arnau lets slide into her own music.
That said, negotiating the New York songwriter scene hasn’t always been easy. “I did a gig about three years in, and my good friend Kay came – and that was it. I called my mom and dad and said ‘I just can’t do this anymore.’ Usually, they’re the ones saying, ‘Are you sire you want to be doing this?’ But that night they talked me out of quitting,” she says.
She continues: “There has to be an ongoing, real reason to stop doing what you love. At this point I can’t imagine what that would be.”