Any songwriter preparing to release an album will tell you, it’s damn hard work. First you have to write the songs, then edit them, fine tune every detail and then set them in arrangements that are appropriate to the lyrical content and mood of the piece. Then, of course, you have to labour over recording them, making sure every note is perfectly placed, every line perfectly sung and every last penny of your savings spent. This is all before even thinking about track listings, artwork, duplication, promotion, airplay, etc, etc, etc. . . It’s exhausting.
But maybe it doesn’t have to be.
Fredericton-based Saint John transplant Jerry-Faye Flatt proves just the opposite on her new collection of material entitled ‘In Sum‘, and the results are stunning. At only 21-years old she has crafted a collection of confident, vulnerable and, ultimately, honest songs all presented here with just a voice and guitar. It’s a smart effort, too, as she avoids any grand topics or forced wisdom and sticks to age-appropriate themes that feel like little confessions in such stark arrangements. She sings about what she knows, the things that are important to her at this stage of her life; and she does so with dignity, sincerity, and authority.
The scene is set right off the bat in opener ‘King’s College Rd.’ when she sings “when I got in to college I was absolutely scared”. There’s no imagining here, this is the truth and its sung in a voice completely void of any pretense or pretending.
This transparency is echoed in the next cut ‘I Should Have Guessed’, which starts with a repetitive guitar figure and the audible sound of her breathing before declaring to a lost love, “You are the most perfect thing to me”. A line like this could drip of insincerity and stink of rotten cheese in another singer’s hands, but Jerry-Faye has a distinct way of making the listener believe every word she is singing (probably because they’re true).
These themes of new beginnings and lost loves continue throughout the proceedings. “I’m hoping we can be friends” she sings in ‘Summer’s End’, a theme she contradicts in ‘Shameless’ when she sings, “you and I just can’t get along”. That dichotomy and confusion is to be expected from someone so young finding her feet in a new home while leaving behind her family and friends.
Don’t think her naive, however. Jerry-Faye completely understands what all these changes mean and lets us know it on the stand-out cut ‘Stay Mine’ when she destroys the unrealistic pleading of “I’ll be coming home in three years’ time, I should hope you’ll stay mine” with the confession that the years have taught her that “nothing lasts.” Or take the melancholy summary from album closer ‘All About Endings’ that says: “when you said you thought it was for the best, I did too, and it’s probably true.” Jerry-Faye knows that things change and that change is hard.
It’s not a break-up record, however, and elsewhere we get glimpses into other areas of our host’s life. “My dreams have been getting pretty good,” she sings on ‘Shameless.’ There are two cover songs on the album and even one for her mother simply titled ‘Songs For Mom.’ It’s a startling piece that makes one feel like they’re peeping through the windows of the family home while Jerry-Faye spits out the lyric, “I wish I was stronger and a little bit taller so I could stand up to you.”
Some songs on this recording run just barely over a minute, while others exceed six. This is fitting for a young songwriter telling her own story. She takes as much—or as little—time as required to say what she wants to say. It shows a maturity, confidence and complete lack of disregard for fitting into a mold, and it suits her perfectly.
Clinton Charlton takes too much time to review records but is a good guy who just wants to finish season 6 of Shameless.