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The Path Of A Tear equally combines Jo Harrop's style and substance

"The Path Of A Tear"

Release date: 07 June 2024
Jo Harrop The Path Of A Tear cover
07 June 2024, 09:00 Written by Quentin Harrison

It’s an age-old query: style or substance?

For some it’s a zero-sum situation regarding music. Jo Harrop, nonetheless, demonstrates that both elements can be coordinated, and audiences are paying attention. Born and reared in Durham, England, she got her start as a session vocalist for the likes of Rod Stewart, Neil Diamond and the incomparable Gloria Gaynor. It was inevitable that her work with those established acts gave Harrop courage to try her wings. Released through Bandcamp in 2019, Songs for the Late Hours was a stellar set of covers that allowed the singer to flex her interpretive chops. It also functioned as a companion to her superlative live shows that eventually put her in the sights of her future label home: Lateralize Records.

Not long after signing to the London-headquartered indie, Harrop issued three albums in quick succession: Weathering the Storm (2020), The Heart Wants (2021), and When the Winter Turns to Spring (2022). Weathering… and When the Winter Turns… were fine collaborative vehicles alongside the respective talents of guitarist Jamie McCredie and multi-instrumentalist Paul Edis. However, it was The Heart Wants that showcased Harrop’s abilities as a songwriter. All these anterior projects have led to her most recent Lateralize release The Path of a Tear—Harrop’s fifth album overall.

Her current offering has the songstress paired with Larry Klein, an accomplished writer, producer and musician whose résumé boasts talent like Madeleine Peyroux, Chris Botti, Herbie Hancock, Sharon Corr (of The Corrs renown), and Joni Mitchell. At Harrop’s insistence, Klein commands the record with a tight crew of session player muscle: Jim Cox (piano, Hammond B-3 organ), Victor Indrizzo (drums), and Anthony Wilson (guitar). Klein joins in to provide bass guitar.

Having refined a sensuously sparse, modish jazz vibe – still in place on this outing – Klein turns up the heat for Harrop’s new collection. Previous blues and acoustic tones are present, teased to the fore of her cited jazz aesthetic on “Whisky or the Truth” and “Never Lonely in Soho,” but there’s something different here too: a decidedly wicked pop-soul touch. Said element is apparent on the silken cool of first single “Beautiful Fools.”

It’s a seductive preview of the sonic pleasures held in The Path of a Tear. And best of all? Harrop relishes the wider sound environment she finds herself in as a singer.

Harrop’s voice evokes fellow Briton Julia Fordham and stateside chanteuse Diana Krall; but whereas Fordham’s tone is charmingly glacé and Krall sits in a spicier pocket, Harrop positions itself between those sweet and savoury extremes. The wondrous polish and grit in her singing is noticeable on every cut, but reaches a vinous peak on “The Path of a Tear.” She brings real emotional depth without sacrificing an evocative performance on this title track and it’s a magnificent showing.

Harrop visits that ravishing instrument onto three remarkable covers too, individually penned by Leonard Cohen, Steve Earle, and Leon Russell: “Travelling Light,” “Goodbye” and “If It Wasn’t for Bad.” Harrop steps into them with reverence for earlier, notable takes from Cohen, Emmylou Harris and Elton John while making them her own.

For all the magic Harrop generates there, she really stirs up a potent spell on the eight original compositions. Harrop is the principal lyricist on this batch of tunes with co-writing assistance from Ian Barter, Hannah V, Nicky Brown, Greg Soussan, Geoff Gascgoyne and the aforementioned Paul Edis. Harrop welcomes audiophiles along to experience her musical films-in-miniature on “A Love Like This,” “Too Close to the Sun,” “Hurt,” and “Stay Here Tonight.” Topical evergreens – romance, desire, reflection and reconciliation – can be heard on these tracks and across the thematic expanse of the long player; these aren’t novel subjects but they’re real and Harrop captures that reality.

The Path of a Tear is another excellent addition to a growing cache of striking albums from Jo Harrop; it’s an effort that combines style and substance equally – turn it up and get lost in her aura.

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