This Buzz For You: jENNiNGS

Mary Jennings doesn't think small. In fact, when I recently asked her what three things she'd take, besides her Casio Privia, to a deserted island, one of jENNiNGS's choices was "a nice beach house with air conditioning" because she hates hot weather. That kind of big thinking materializes in the forthcoming release, Take It Or Leave, through jENNiNGS's big voice and big sound.

Much like sitting down at a show, a live album similarly strips an artist for the listener. There are, as jENNiNGS herself says, "no retakes and no tricks." jENNiNGS is part Paula Cole, part Imogen Heap, whose vocals shine forcefully through Take It Or Leave, a live-recorded follow-up to last year's Collapse, Collide. The album gives listeners a raw look into who jENNiNGS is: her personality comes out in song intros and personal stories for which a studio album doesn't make room, as well as through powerful vocal inflection and emotion in all the right places. You hear, for example, that "Kaleidoscope" was written as the result of a dare from her father (she likes challenges such as these), and the song gives you a really good example of jENNiNGS's songwriting skill. Not from the "moon/June" school of rhyme, jENNiNGS flexes words (and their syllables), forcing the listener's attention and delight in added layers of lyrical depth. Such songwriting lends to deeply personal topics, like the sudden loss of her mother in "Move," but also to play on a track like "Figure Me Out."

What impresses me most about jENNiNGS is her commitment to this album representing her as unabashedly herself. The title track, perhaps my favorite, showcases not just amazing work on her Casio keys, her vocal strength and flexibility, and lyrical prowess: it also is the song-story of an artist dedicated to being herself, no matter what big box industry may dictate. You can't be self-conscious on a live album and you can't be anyone other than yourself; Take It Or Leave gives you jENNiNGS at full force. As the song goes, "And if you don't like / Everything you see / Then don't let the door / Hit you on your way to leave."

But chances are you won't want to go anywhere.

Take It Or Leave is out digitally on CD Baby, and forthcoming in hard copy April 11th.

For more info, including upcoming show dates, check out jENNiNGS's website:

My thanks, again, to jENNiNGS for her time in answering a few questions for me and for being my very first TBA interview! It was a blast!

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