New Album 'Trouble' Available Now
One listen to Jana Keeley’s debut release goes a long way towards defining the long and winding road that’s carried her to this point in her career. It’s all about the stories and the intimacy she brings to a very personal setting. Ten carefully-crafted songs speak directly to you – carried by Jana’s soft, breathy vocals and bare bones accompaniment – just the right amount of accompaniment. Add to this the fact that this first release, Trouble, was a long time coming – having been incubating away for years as Jana dealt with all the cards life sometimes deals to those of fixed focus, knowing what they want. You can hear hints of frustration throughout Trouble, yet without the bitterness that often accompanies it. She seems ultimately grateful for each and every detour.

There’s definitely something different about the alluring Jana Keeley. A singer-songwriter who stops you in your tracks, she invites you into her life through her music and her introspective observations can’t help but seep into your subconscious. At times, you feel slightly awkward – her lyrics make you feel like you’re eavesdropping on something intensely personal. Which is exactly the idea.

Raised in rural Alberta to cattle-ranching parents, she has been forever touched by notions of the Wild West, living the hard lessons of responsibility that come with the lifestyle and appreciating each and every benefit. The songwriting came early. She was weaned on classic country radio – Willie, Emmylou, Johnny Cash and Lacy J. Dalton – while life’s lessons provided plenty of material as love, death, joy and sadness added its rich shades of colour to Jana’s experience. A young wife, a single mother, a student, a waitress – but always a musician, she’s kept her eye on what’s most important to her and never let go, gaining enough recognition and support for her music along the way to sustain her, stoking the inner fires.

Trouble is the result of this journey – the first stop, at least. Recorded in Victoria with the able assistance of Juno-packing producer, Joby Baker, who also lends serious skills as both engineer and player throughout the recording. Time spent with Terry Jacks along the way provided Jana with valuable industry experience before a timely trip to Nashville provided the musical reinforcement she needed, ultimately setting the course for Trouble as it served to define her own contribution. In fact, she was befriended, if not adopted, by the local scene while a collision of good timing and better luck connected her to a circle of new friends like producer Peter Collins, photographer Alan Messer and, from these connections, to steel player Pete Finney and renowned bassist David Hungate, who volunteered his touch to an album he firmly believed in. Relationships with various movers ’n’ shakers blew additional wind into her sails, setting the stage for interesting collaborations down that road.

Which is where you’ll find Jana – down that road, hoping to get her music in front of as many people as will lend her their ears. She’s a disarming vision – a tall, attractive woman whose soft, angelic voice doesn’t quite match the package. Shawn Colvin meets Tom Waits, given the contrast of soft, sweet vocals to a blurred background of crushed percussion, distorted guitar, steel guitar and occasional B3. Yet this finished sound is far from accidental. The simpatico tag-team of Baker-Keeley proved the perfect collaboration of Jana’s musical vision to Joby’s technical savvy as each instrument was carefully designed around vocal performance for a finished effect that gently but firmly serves the singer and her songs as it places her within a hushed tapestry of complementary sounds. A sophisticated contrast of softness and coarseness, vulnerability to tenacity – definitely personal and delicately portrayed.

Hey – life is good when it’s full of surprises.

And if this is Trouble, bring it on.

– Eric Thom


            
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