This singer/songwriter has a lot of friends, but with such a wide array of talent lending backing vocals to her album, Jude Johnstone is worthy of such collaborations. The lovely acoustic alt country "Cry Wolf" could be a calmer version of a Lucinda Williams track; others of the female folk elite, such as Shawn Colvin, or one with an Americana flair à la Stacey Earle would be wise to enjoy this fine opener. The only minor problems might be an extra half-minute, which is needless. Johnstone's bread and butter is finding a melody and working her slightly Southern delivery around it, as is the case on the mid-tempo title track that recalls Bruce Hornsby, Amy Farris or Lori McKenna. Valerie Carter lends backing harmonies as well on a chorus that pays off. Yet again the song should be curtailed roughly by about a minute, even with the slow fade. The melancholic piano touches of "Wounded Heart" are where Johnstone excels tremendously as Jackson Browne offers subtle but important backing harmonies. It's also a combination that meshes as well as Steve Earle and Emmylou Harris do. The album soars from this moment on, as a pop-folk blend greets the rather breezy but strong "Not Long for This World." The Celtic-tinged brilliance of "Hearts in Armor" rivals Harris or Sinéad O'Connor in terms of her vocals causing shivers up one's spine or hairs to rise from this gorgeous piece of work. The momentum continues on the simpler, pop-inspired "Doesn't Anybody Know but Me" that would compare easily to Paula Cole. Johnstone isn't afraid to go down a gospel lane either, although "Unchained" doesn't quite live up to expectations despite the help of Bonnie Raitt and Jennifer Warnes. Perhaps to atone for the gospel lapse, she tries again with far greater rewards on the warm and gentle "The Water's Edge," that has all the nuances of Bruce Springsteen's softer side shown on Tunnel of Love. Another pop-folk nugget comes during "Let's Leave It Open," as Johnstone opens up a tad more vocally. Ending with another soulful Norah Jones-like number, "When Someone Speaks Your Name," Johnstone will be one you will hear from. A singer/songwriter's singer/songwriter if there ever was one.
Coming of Age Review
by Jason MacNeil