published: 12 /
Excellent new single from Banjo Jen which proves a great introduction to her take on country and Americana music
If you are already familiar with Banjo Jen’s music you will know that she has a banjo picking, songwriting style all of her own, which sits very comfortably in the UK country and Americana scene. Taking inspiration from life experiences and traditional stories, her songwriting approach has an irresistible and quirky humour, especially when she tells the tale from the woman’s perspective.
The single 'Fine Line' tells the bittersweet story of the end of a relationship and an urge for freedom. A classic country theme, it’s an experience many of us can relate to. Recorded at Sheffield’s Yellow Arch studios as a live take, it has an authentic country sound with thoughtful lyrics, a catchy tune, pedal steel guitar accompaniment from Jim Widdop and melodic harmonies from Lauren Housley and producer and guitarist Thomas Dibb. Also featured are Johnny Griff on stand up bass and Dan Wiebe on drums. They are a group of musicians who have worked together in varying combinations and this collaboration with Banjo Jen sounds a natural fit. John Fermer joins them on fiddle and mandolin on other tracks.
Banjo Jen had planned to record a 5-track EP, 'Cloud of Dust;, in November 2020. The process was interrupted by lockdown and recording finally began in the summer of 2021. It includes ''Run', (the first' song she wrote), 'Whisky Feet', 'Between the Lines', 'Fine Line' (the single release) and 'English Bay,' all songs which predate the pandemic.
She and producer Thomas Dibb were keen to create a live studio sound at Yellow Arch studios in Sheffield, without over thinking the recording process. Jen feels this gives the songs a natural country sound.
Back in March 2020, as the first Covid lockdown was announced, Banjo Jen was one of the first musician friends I talked to about the impact lockdown was going to have on their careers and livelihoods.
Banjo Jen’s reputation within the Americana music world had been going from strength to strength as she played gigs and festivals including Red Rooster, The Long Road and the Maverick pop up stage. Fans were recognising her talents and her following was growing through social media and live performances. Growing success inspired her songwriting too and things were really flowing along.
Suddenly everything screeched to a halt. No gigs, no festivals, no plans. It was a time of much anxiety and uncertainty for us all. Some musicians responded with online performances, finding their way round technology and tip jars. Others wrote songs and music in response to this new world of pandemic.
As we emerged from the various lockdowns of the last two years, I saw that musicians I knew were releasing their music in fresh ways, using digital singles and EPs rather than albums to introduce their songs to new and old fans, making use of the new ways of sharing through streaming and algorithms. These tracks of Banjo Jen’s will be self-released using CD Baby to access streaming platforms and there will be a physical CD available in September 2022.
Always interested in music and performance, Jen didn’t think of herself as a musician until 2013 when a health issue forced her to give up Appalachian dancing with the dance group Feet First. She had a banjo at home and turned to playing music for the dancers instead. She then met Ash Gray, a musician from Austin, Texas, also now based in Sheffield who encouraged her to sing and play as part of a trio, 'Something The Dog Dragged In'. She built her confidence through open mic sessions and support slots with the encouragement of friends and fellow musicians. By 2017 she had established herself as a solo performer.
Her songwriting abilities developed organically alongside her familiarity with playing the banjo. Her lifelong enthusiasm for the written word and poetry inspires her lyric writing and storytelling through her songs.
Her influences include Eilen Jewell , Sarah Shook and the Disarmers, Margo Price, Brandi Carlisle, The Secret Sisters, Mary Gauthier and, of course. the always inspirational Dolly Parton.
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