…that voice is impossible to ignore, and it’s only a matter of time before her name is mentioned in the same breath as those vocalists that she drew so much inspiration from.
Funkyjenn sits on the album cover with a piercing gaze along with a crystal ball in one hand and a vinyl record in the other. Her sound comes straight from those dusty grooves and a studio where a live band’s magic was recorded to two-inch tape reels. She’s young enough to know what it means to be a part of the MTV generation, but that voice is beyond her years, reaching back to the time of Janis Joplin as well as the heyday for sirens like Aretha Franklin and Tina Turner. After biding her time as a background vocalist for other musicians, the time has come for her to shine in the spotlight. Rock And Roll Voodoo Queen marks her debut release, a six-song E.P. that’s a tip of the hat to 1960s/70s rock and soul in more ways than one.
“Shoulda Been My Lover” sets the mood right away with hard-rocking guitar riffs and piano triplet stabs, sounding like an AM classic from decades past. Funkyjenn’s performance is fierce and assertive, letting a man know in no uncertain terms that the window of opportunity closed ages ago. She bruises egos with a single line, particularly when she sings “You picked the wrong girl to be your wife / coulda had me in your life.” If that song is the “hit the road” track, then “Boom Boom” is that “come hither” tune. Funkyjenn is both the moth drawn to the flame and the spider enticing the fly on this song, swaying between weakness and strength in the same verse. Her playful and downright naughty delivery is accompanied effortlessly by the band, featuring guitars awash in fuzz effects and sustained organ accents.
While it’s great to hear her rock out, Funkyjenn is absolutely irresistible during the ballads. “Butterflies Bleed” is quintessential bluesy soul and her voice is the right blend of fragility and strength in the face of heartbreak. The lyrics are emotionally authentic and painfully truthful (“The weakness in me doesn’t start at the knees”) while the band builds the tension on the chorus by dropping out and coming back in at just the right moments. “Outta Sight Outta Mind” makes effective use of a 6/8 time signature, churning out a slow dance number for a woman that needs a warm body when her main squeeze isn’t around. Guitar twangs tug at the heartstrings while light background coos help fill the space. This song along with “Butterflies Bleed” benefits greatly from the impeccable string arrangements by co-producer Ted Russell Kamp.
“Nashville, TN” sits comfortably between rock and country, propelled by honky tonk leanings and rhythm guitar motifs. Funkyjenn gets in touch with her inner Janis as she sings about a mysterious man that’s just out of her reach, getting some great harmonic support from the background vocalists. The title track “Rock And Roll Voodoo Queen” closes the E.P. with a guitar-led groove reminiscent of The Rolling Stones or The Black Crowes. Funkyjenn lyrically paints a picture of a woman performing a live set in Hollywood, captivating the audience with her presence. It may as well be autobiographical.
It’s easy to suggest that she was born in the wrong decade since she sounds like she stepped right out of the late 1960s, but Funkyjenn’s careful study of that era’s great singers is proof that the sound contains a timeless quality. Rock And Roll Voodoo Queen captures that sound perfectly, not only due to her exceptional vocals, but a top-notch band of musicians that surround her with masterful instrumentation. However, that voice is impossible to ignore, and it’s only a matter of time before her name is mentioned in the same breath as those vocalists that she drew so much inspiration from.
Album: Rock And Roll Voodoo Queen
Reviewed by Jason Randall Smith
Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)