Jo Henley – Inside Out
Jo Henley’s first release “Sad Songs And Alcohol” was a very interesting and pleasant album with musical roots in the americana/bluegrass/country genre. The country-pop genre has been doing quite well the past couple years with it’s mainstream and current sound. And while it is perfect for radio and commercial use, there is something generic about it, most of the modern country-pop albums don’t have that special directness reflecting everyday life or emtional depth that the old honkytonk and country albums used to display.
However, there have been a few examples of bands and artists that show a similar personal connection and emotional depth in their music. For me, Jo Henley kind of bridges the two. The songs have a very pleasant and radio-friendly sound to them yet the music is reminiscent of the old country music in its feel and message.
“Inside Out” is a real album, where all 11 songs fit together perfectly and musically it all forms a whole. It opens with The Great Depression, which is kind of a classic country song with some honkytonk and bluegrass influences. The uptempo, feelgood melody and typical country lyrics just make you smile.
The Fire reminds me of a 70s country song, but I can’t remember which song exactly. The rootsy, more paced sound is soothing and intriguing, yet the song doesn’t have the catchiness or current sound that makes it fit as a radio song. The mid-tempo title song, Inside Out, is one of the album’s top tracks. Very danceable and it is a good mix of a more classic and a more current sound. The most impressive part of Save The Last Dance For Us is how the vocals and music are coming together. While it’s not extremely uptempo or has a distinctive beat it still is somewhat catchy.
When I listen to Cheyenne, I can just picture an old saloon where the band is playing this song. I believe it would make a very good radio song, it’s easy to sing along, the melody is catchy and it’s one of those songs that just stick in your head. I think it is one of my favorite songs on “Inside Out”. Jo Henley continues with Holly, which is a slower song. Musically and vocally, there’s nothing wrong with the song but I keep waiting for the song to get going, to take off, so to speak. But unfortunately it doesn’t really. It’s a very decent song but it could’ve used a little more punch or a climax in the song.
The interesting Gonna Make It Right continues the album. The catchy song is another good example of combining the old country feel with a more current sound. One of the better songs on the album. It would also make a good radio single. It’s uptempo and gets you in a good mood. With Only I Can Break Your Heart, Jo Henley shows a more emotional side. With the electric guitar and the poppy melody it feels more like a current country-pop ballad, and it works very well. The song may have radio potential as it could be a sing-along, but most of all I think it could make a good closer for a live set. Tears On My Sleeve is a very pleasant song and the rootsy, comfortable feel it produces, combined with the excellent musical arrangement makes it a very interesting and fun track to listen to.
Apart from loving the title of the song, Getting Good At Goodbye, is a very good song. It showcases that emotional depth I was talking about and with the arrangement and impressive vocals those feelings come out wonderfully. To me, apart from being my favorite song on the album, Getting Good At Goodbye also has the best lyrics. It may be because they perfectly reflect a time of my life, so I can easily connect to the lyrics personally, but Jo Henley is able to put the sentiment from the lyrics into the music, which is something that always impresses me when a band does that. The album ends with Love (Is A Long Way Down), which has a bit of a blues-rock feel to it. Not what I had expected, but I enjoy it. The almost gritty and somewhat raw sound makes it a very suitable end to this excellent album.
“Inside Out” is a very worth successor to “Sad Songs And Alcohol”. It shows more variety and more depth in the songwriting, and it shows Jo Henley is a band that has the potential of breaking through to a wider audience, not in a couple of years, but right now. The quality of the music and songwriting is good, the band is passionate about their music and can deliver it accordingly. If “Inside Out” gets a chance, and people are willing to stand behind it (and why wouldn’t they?), it could definitely be the band’s breakout album. In its genre, this is probably my favorite release of 2010 so far.