“5 stars! All bow down to the Voodoo Queen”

Rock and Roll Voodoo Queen is a virtually flawless debut for Funkyjenn…All bow down to the Voodoo Queen… 

The debut EP from LA’s own Funkyjenn, entitled, Rock and Roll Voodoo Queen captures a fantastic mix of rock and classic soul. The cover art may bring to mind Stevie Nicks, but the music and Funkyjenn’s voice is much more akin to Janis Joplin, Gladys Knight, and early Tina Turner. She also has the good fortune to be backed by a sensationally talented group of musicians who also know their way around this style of music. The six original songs that make up the EP are all strongly written and performed, marking a stellar freshmen outing for the vocalist and songwriter.

Rock and Roll Voodoo Queen opens with a down and dirty guitar riff on “Shoulda Been My Lover” that gets the song moving briskly. As it leads into the bassline, the stomp of the bass drum comes in and finally, after a quick keyboard flourish, the track takes off into its full arrangement. Guitarists Dan Wistrom and John Schreffler Jr. pack in a tremendous amount of sound by playing snarling guitar lines over the main riff and a gritty solo partway through. Ted Russell Kamp’s bass playing maintains a strong presence in the mix and along with Jamie Douglass’ drumming, makes for a dynamic rhythm section. Slightly more understated but essential in giving the song some flair is Carl Byron’s work on the keys. And then of course, there’s Funkyjenn.

Consistently strong performances are given by Funkyjenn on every one of the songs here. It speaks strongly to her experience as a vocalist that she knows exactly what to do with her voice when she needs to. When she needs to smolder, she smolders. When she needs to be gritty, she’s gritty. For example, “Butterflies Bleed” is a ¾ time ballad of sorts, powered as much by Funkyjenn’s emotive singing as it is Byron’s organ playing. As raucous and rocking as her voice is on the tracks that precede this, here she is softer and displays hints of the emotional vulnerability within the lyric. “Every time that I cry, is when you say goodbye/And I know these butterflies bleed.” These sentiments are further enhanced by the string arrangement by Kamp.

Returning to the rock and soul, Funkyjenn leads her band through “Nashville, TN.” Once again the song takes right off with its rollicking bassline and southern rock guitars. Douglass’ drumming is inspired as he launches into several quick drum fills at compelling speed throughout the piece. Byron’s piano playing is also a tremendous part of the arrangement even getting the opportunity to break into a brief solo right before the guitars take off again.

“Outta Sight Outta Mind” goes back to the ¾ time and mellower style of “Butterflies Bleed,” though this time the arrangement is more heavily focused on Funkyjenn’s vocals, the stomp of Douglass’ drumming, and the violin playing by Aubrey Richmond. The verses are very low key affairs with most of the instrumentation relegated to backing up the drums and vocals. As they progress towards the chorus the playing picks up bit by bit until we do hit the chorus and get the chance to appreciate just how layered the arrangement is. Here’s where those guitars come back in, the organ churns away in the back, and the bass thumps away.

The record’s closer is also its title track. The style and power of the song is similar to the opener, effectively making everything come back around full circle. From start to finish it never relentless, always delivering something engaging whether it be Funkyjenn’s singing or the back-to-back guitar solos that steal the show in the later moments. It’s an excellent number to close on as well as being excellent overall. It rocks, it has swagger, and it’s a strong representation of the EP as a whole.

The remaining song of the six, “Boom Boom” is also more in line with its rocking counterparts, though it has a slightly different sound to it; think the introduction to Deep Purple’s, “Hush.” While being an excellently performed and enjoyable song, it’s also important in showing that Funkyjenn and her band know how to breathe originality into their compositions. Where it would’ve been one thing to record an album that follows the formula of the songs that bookend this EP, they’re able to mix it up. “Boom Boom” has its own unique air around it thanks to the percussion breaks, the guitar effects, and how Funkyjenn carries her voice.

Rock and Roll Voodoo Queen is a virtually flawless debut for Funkyjenn. As mentioned earlier, the cover art could draw comparisons to Stevie Nicks and the gypsy or witch persona she had adopted. Funkyjenn’s voice and style is far different than Nicks, and it’s interesting that the same differences can be seen in a voodoo queen versus a gypsy queen. Where the gypsy persona is seen as mystical and enchanting, voodoo is aggressive with a bit of menace and grit. Funkyjenn captures that effortlessly. All bow down to the Voodoo Queen.

Artist: Funkyjenn
EP: Rock and Roll Voodoo Queen
Review by: Heath Andrews
Rating 5 Stars (out of 5)