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Born Stubborn
Alice Jago Born Stubborn
Released 14 May 2010
Producer

Alice Jago
Karl Odlum
Label Stubborn Records
Genre Folk
Website www.alicejago.com
63

Consider the theory: it’s not the drunken or inattentive drivers that cause the crashes in road safety ads but it’s the middle of the road music on the soundtrack that ultimately does the damage. I mean do you think that the gods of musical taste will let anyone away with listening to some limp Fleetwood Mac or Damien Rice?

Of course I’m being facetious, however Alice Jago’s debut Born Stubborn sails dangerously close to being another MOR accident waiting to happen.

The beginning of the album by the Dublin singer-songwriter doesn’t curry any favours. The title track, 'Cotton On Girl' and 'New St South' are simple country songs with lyrical themes of life, love and regrets. They ramble along pleasantly but lack the edge of say, Lucinda Williams or Emmylou Harris.

Despite its lukewarm openings the album eventually glimpses at Jago’s talents as producer, songwriter and most impressively her vocal abilities.

Jago is an extremely gifted vocalist with a range that can draw on a raspier Gillian Welch, a pure folk lilt and eastern European inflections to excellent effect. Her adaptability has been built up by years of touring with well established acts such as Damien Dempsey, Roger McGuinn and the late Mic Christopher.

Also what is refreshing is her lack of pretensions. She does not cloy goodwill with current trends or fads but burrows her own musical route through a love of easy listening, jazz and the better end of country and folk. The production has no frills; its subtleties let her voice’s warmth to breathe and serve the simple yet effective instrumentation.

Around the midpoint of the album 'Warrior' demonstrates for the first time a singer, songwriter and producer in harmony. The earlier songs’ breeziness gives way to a deeper introspection and better oblique lyrics. The vocals are pure but hold the weight of a life’s experience behind them. There is a feistiness and melancholy in the voice that renders all that came before tepid in comparison.

'Time' captivatingly showcases a jazz-folk side to Jago. Its dreamy flow melds together bittersweet lyrics and some haunting vocals reminiscent of career peak Suzanne Vega. It hints at an artist not entirely content to keep within the dreary warmth of general musical niceties.

The album ends on a high point with another beautiful vocal performance. 'Lullaby' pitches Jago’s voice higher but it still retains its cosy warmth that will be a calling card for the album and indeed the artist.

So would the album get on a sound system in a road safety ad?

Superficially Born Stubborn is a breezy folk country album that acts like a musical comfort blanket. Its warmth and beauty seduces the listener but it also blocks out any real edge or potential innovation that may be needed for the artist to enquire a decent following. Yet in all consideration Jago’s bewitching and mercurial voice, her delicate production skills and some exquisite bittersweet songs ultimately redeems the album from the dangers of easy listening. For now the gods of musical taste are pacified.

- Tim Gannon