Jodie Jean Marston: Redtail

Jodie Jean Marston’s Redtail is a near-perfect collection of contemporary American folk songs. Its ten tracks effortlessly evoke a mood of quiet, parched landscape with great precision and economy, combining the hypnotic stillness of Will Oldham (whose brother Ned plays guitar and bass here) with the cosmic stylings of Gram Parsons and The Band. Reserved and unhurried in execution, it nonetheless leaves a lasting impression of measured, strong-willed intentness.

Marston’s singing voice has more than a touch of the honeyed drawl of Lucinda Williams, but her songs inhabit a different universe entirely. Trading Williams’ expansive raunch for sweetness and modesty, Marston’s songs have an artless simplicity that is reinforced by the gentle, restrained instrumentation on display. Throughout the album, Marston’s delicately plucked or strummed acoustic guitar blends beautifully with spiralling traces of electric guitar, percussion and flute.

Several of the song titles – “Hands on the Prairie”, “Mountain Rise”, “Porchlights”, “Seedbearer” – hint at a stilled, sparsely peopled America, an evocation underpinned by the deep reserves of rural imagery on which Marston’s lyrics draw. “If the sky is a roof above me/I ask this house, will you love me”, she sings on “My Dog Will Choose”, in a voice of pure intimacy and affectlessness. Redtail’s gorgeous campfire vibe lends it a warmth and closeness that are utterly beguiling.

(Originally published in The Sound Projector 15, 2007)

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