Forgive or Forget

Jenny Whiteley

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Forgive or Forget Review

by Paula Carino

Vancouver's Black Hen label is home to a stable of rootsy singer/songwriters who tend, on the surface, toward the unassuming, but whose albums reveal treasures on repeated listens. Jenny Whiteley, former vocalist of the bluegrass group Heartbreak Hill, is a prime example of this understated aesthetic. On her fourth solo album, the Juno Award-winning songwriter offers ten likable and engaging country-tinged folk-rock tunes that inspect all aspects of romantic love, delivered in a confident voice with excellent backing from a band that includes drummer John Raham (Kinnie Starr/Be Good Tanyas). Black Hen head honcho Steve Dawson provides a variety of tasteful (and tasty) guitar textures throughout, and also produced the album, doing a great job of showcasing Whiteley's songs with just enough gloss to make them pop, but not so much that the subtle melodies and smart lyrics get outglittered. The CD is front-loaded with slower-burning numbers, but takes off midway with the powerful minor-key waltz "Truth and the Eyes of the Dead," followed by the tart and spunky "Ripple Effect." Whiteley exercises her pure country chops on "Cold, Cold Kisses," on which she breaks out a sultry vocal, supported by spine-tingling harmonies and poignant pedal steel. The poppy "Slack" -- featuring the catchiest melody of the bunch -- comes alive with a jaunty Wurlitzer hook courtesy of Chris Gestrin (Night Crawlers, Randy Bachman) and the album ends on a high note with the ultra-tuneful "Half Life."

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