Funkyjenn is clearly someone that believes in the unseen power of music to move people emotionally.
When you listen to Funkyjenn’s Rock and Roll Voodoo Queen, you might never guess this Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter is also the daughter of a Broadway character actor. This is because the six songs on this release sound like the ravings of a New Orleans musical spiritualist.
Just one look at the woman pictured on her website, and it’s clear this is one mystical chick. She’s also many different singers rolled into one vocal package. You may feel like you’re listening to a compilation of various female belters, when in fact it’s just one.
On “Nashville TN,” Funkyjenn (real name Jennifer Gibbons) sings over a plunking piano-led groove, which leaves her sounding a lot like vintage Tina Turner. This is not “What’s Love Got To Do With It,” Turner, mind you; that Turner was all gussied up with 80s electronic gadgetry. No, this was the Turner that was still with that rascal, Ike, back when she was shaking a tambourine, wearing a mini skirt and, well, shaking her money-maker. The track is introduced by a simple electric guitar riff and back by sustained organ notes. Funkyjenn’s vocal pacing brings to mind the way Chris Robinson sings with The Black Crowes. The guitar solo on the track sounds a lot like the way Duane Allman used to solo with The Allman Brothers. Another Crowes-esque track is the accusatory “Shoulda Been My Lover.”
When Funkyjenn sings ballads, however, she comes off a little like another soul icon, Etta James. On both “Outta Sight Outta Mind” and “Butterflies Bleed,” she can be heard taking her time, milking every word for all the emotion they’re worth, and really selling the song. “Outta Sight Outta Mind” lopes to a sparse groove, with an instrumental backing that brings to mind classic Otis Redding ballads. However, Funkyjenn has a much smoother singing voice than Redding was.
This album’s title track may remind you of 70s era Rolling Stones music. It begins with one of those Keith Richards-like guitar riffs. The song could also be self-referential, as it describes just the sort of sassy singer Funkyjenn is. Its lyric also details a magical musical night where a performance is positively transfixing. You get the gist this song lays out the kinds of experiences she expects from concerts, as well as the sorts of experiences she desires to create. To use the New Orleans analogy again, this famed Louisiana city has a reputation for a scene that is part voodoo, part art. In many instances, you can’t have one without the other. The music is an extension of the dark magic, and the dark magic is oftentimes inseparable from the tunes.
Funkyjenn’s perspective is noteworthy because it’s all too easy to get caught up in the strictly business aspect of music. Men in suits like to talk dollars and cents, but true artists don’t think in such monetary terms. Funkyjenn is clearly someone that believes in the unseen power of music to move people emotionally. John Sebastian, back during his The Lovin’ Spoonful days, wrote a hit song called “Do You Believe in Magic?” where he claimed there was magic in the music and the music was in him. Sure, this was more pop music than heavy, New Orleans sounds, but the principle still applies. Folks like John Sebastian and Funkyjenn are convinced there is magic in music, but only for true believers.
Lastly, this Funkyjenn project is filled with music for those that sincerely appreciate real music. This isn’t processed music, like much of the pop music played on hit radio. This is, instead, music with dirt under its fingernails, so to speak. Listen up, and catch the magic.
Album: Rock and Roll Voodoo Queen
Review By: Dan MacIntosh
Rating: 4 Stars (out of 5)