Janet Simpson “Safe Distance”
CORNELIUS CHAPEL, 2021
March 31, 2021 Mark Nenadic
For fans of Americana with a neatly understated, dark skies twang.
From Birmingham (Alabama, not West Midlands), here rides Janet Simpson. This is her first big release ‘solo’ record, although she’s been making music for over twenty years in a wide range of below the radar bands and duos. Opener ‘Nashville Girls’ (which Simpson ‘ain’t one of’) is bold yet melancholy, a touch of Lucinda Williams and a touch of Eighties synth among the twang. Simpson’s voice is a little buried in the mix, which adds to the existential ennui that runs through this song and the record as a whole.
‘Reno’ is something close to a road trip, unfaithfulness and booze country stomper, a slice of traditional Americana. You could line dance to it, if you really wanted to. ‘Awe and Wonder’ is very Cowboy Junkies, intimate and soaked in reverb, supported by astral synth voices. One of Simpson’s strongest here, the song ends as it’s just getting started, leaving the listener pleasantly hanging. ‘Ain’t Nobody Lookin’’ is dark and broody, Simpson’s voice at its most splintered. Title track ‘Safe Distance’ has a jittery, fuzzed-up waltz rhythm underpinning its tale of love snared and kept at bay. ‘Black Turns Blue’ is little more than finger-picked guitar and deep sorrow soothed by the bottle. Certainly it’s Simpson’s sweetest moment herein. ‘Double Lines’ barely hides a sinister underbelly, Twin-Peaksy, Chris Isaaksy in vibe.
The record ends with more downtempo songs – ‘Wrecked’ being the closer – where Simpson takes aim at gossips and haters with barbed lyrics couched inside a sweet melody.