CD review: Jen Lane, For the Night

Don’t be fooled by the cover art of Jen Lane’s For The Night: this is not the urban folk-pop it would appear to be at first glance. From the pervasive use of the lap slide and the very relaxed rhythms, it quickly becomes apparent that this is pure country with a decided prairie flair. Jen’s vocals are clear and smooth as honey and, combined with the warmth of the acoustic guitars and synth, each song conjures images of big open skies and the fields that rise to meet them in the distance.

The standout song on this album is “The Lonely Cricket”, her ode to the lonely heart looking for love; this straddles a fine line between melancholy and hope, ultimately keeping it from falling into melodrama. The playfulness of this song also helps lift the subject matter above the rather clichéd themes of sad love, dysfunctional relationships and general disenfranchisement that crop up in the other songs. However, a significant part of the rest of the album strays too far into stereotypical country music, with overly simplistic lyrics and heavy-handed melodies that become indistinguishable from each other.

The one other surprise here comes in the form of her fourth entry, “Election Day.” What starts out seeming to be a commentary on poor voter turnout quickly evolves into an anti-establishment song with somewhat eerie survivalist overtones. Not only does it have very little in common contextually with the rest of the album, it tends to have some repetitive lines at the end, enough to kill any desire for a second run-through.

Overall, For the Night sticks too closely to one tone and one emotion, but that’s not to say it doesn’t have some good easy-listening songs when taken in small doses. Jen’s voice is a definite highlight, and with a little work on the lyrics there could be some promise here. However, as a whole this album is a lot like a prairie winter: long, lonely and lethargic.