Jean Meike

On My Way

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From the soaring vocal that graces the opening notes of the album, it is readily apparent that On My Way is dramatic leap forward from its predecessor, a different and much more mature album in terms of both sound and confidence. Jean Meike showed herself to be an engrossing, often powerful songwriter on her bare-bones debut, Dance on Fire, but that album left a lot to be desired in the way of production and playing. That is not at all a problem on On My Way. The production is entirely professional (courtesy of John Dyer) and exquisite, full of warmth, organic depth, and attention to detail. The previously utilized synthesizers are mostly replaced by banjo, mandolin, congas, and cello, while the arrangements are peppered with strings (albeit played on synthesizer) and a modicum of electronic samples and loops, all to fabulous effect. The playing, too, is excellent and the songs are even stronger than on the first album, with far more inventive and complex arrangements and song structures. Meike's vocals no longer saunter with the same smoke-flavored low purr either. Her singing had previously betrayed the last remnants of a longtime smoking habit, often settling into the same aural groove, but without the cigarette-strain her voice is a truly sonorous instrument, almost sounding like a female David Bowie on the Ziggy Stardust-like "Out of Night." It reaches pristine highs that it never approached on Dance of Fire, sounding more seductively torchy and variable throughout the album. Another gargantuan sonic difference is that the songs were all written on acoustic guitar rather than piano. Between albums Meike had switched instruments as her compositional tool of choice, and the difference is readily apparent, not only in the gentle, lilting tone that the album takes, but also in more thickly textured and dark-hued melodies. And whereas Meike seemed to be struggling or trying to come to terms with both spirituality and love on Dance of Fire, she seems to have reached some tough-skinned conclusions that lead forward rather than looking backward. On "The Clown" she dispenses with both religion and bad relationships in a single verse: "I used to love you so much more than I do now/But time changed the way I feel/I'm an unbeliever now/But that's okay, my heart is not broken." The album does, indeed, act as proof that Jean Meike is on her way.