Karen Jonas: Lucky, Revisited
Released earlier this summer, Karen Jonas’ fourth studio album, Lucky Revisited, is a collection of eleven songs, nine of which she authored in her living room. Also included are her commendable covers of Bob Dylan’s “It takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry,” and Hank Williams’ “Lovesick Blues.” Additionally influenced and inspired by the likes of Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, Chris Issac, and Johnny Cash, Karen Jonas doesn’t shy away from applying her mesmerizing voice to cover songs initially sung from a male perspective, but it’s her own songs that showcase her vocal range, passion, and creativity. A mother to four young children, Jonas writes and performs independent country music for a living. Based in Fredericksburg, Virginia, Jonas and guitarist/producer, Tim Bray, tour extensively across the Commonwealth, and also make occasional forays into Tennessee, Texas, Maryland, and the District of Columbia. You might catch them one afternoon at a brewery in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, and the next evening at one of Washington, DC’s popular music venues like the 9:30 Club, Pearl Street Warehouse, or Hill Country BBQ.
Lucky Revisited was recorded at Fill Your Boots Studio in Fredericksburg, VA, produced by Jonas and Bray, and engineered by bassist, EP Jackson. The album’s title refers to the revised arrangement and recording of some of her best songs previously released on her first three records. Jonas explains that these new versions represent how the songs have evolved from their original structure, and that they “… have grown on the road, and we have, too.” In a somewhat novel approach Jonas is unafraid to return to her previously finished work, revise, and improve upon it. These new versions feature Bray’s meticulous, yet rambunctious guitar slinging in a much cleaner and more pronounced fashion without overpowering Karen’s vocals or her distinctly skillful finger picking the acoustic six string. The new arrangements better compliment and display the strengths of each musician with minimal production and tinkering. Bass guitar and drums are also present as a more than respectable rhythm section.
Resisting the urge to dumb down the source material to contemporary country song templates, Karen Jonas reaches into the literary field with a character for “Ophelia,” a blunt reference to the Shakespearean Tragedy, Hamlet. While working back centuries for a protagonist, the message remains ever so valuable to women persistently chasing the bad boys today, “This won’t end well if you keep moving this way, and baby don’t let him make you crazy.” Contrasting the potentially dark subject matter, “Ophelia” is presented here in a dynamic, upbeat, and cheerful musical format, challenging you to keep your seat. Hang on to your hats, indeed!
“Oklahoma Lottery” takes on the sad tales of the Dust Bowl, a wicked combination of severe drought and dust storms which devastated the prairies of the United States and Canada in the late 1930s, and significantly so in Colorado, Nebraska, Kansas, and Oklahoma. The lyrics speak to the terrifying results of the “earth shaking loose” to the demoralizing scenario where “dust seeps in through cracks in the windows.” Bray’s guitar’s set an appropriately bluesy background to Jonas’ mournful vocals, lamenting the sheer hopelessness of the people left with little choice but to flee once promising lands.
As perhaps only a mother of four could truly explain, Jonas’ presents “Butter” as a soliloquy from the kitchen counter. She describes the lofty expectations placed upon wives and mothers in our society, and the tolls taken as a result. Demonstrating their versatility, Jonas and Bray switch to a jazzy swing style here, setting the mood back to memories of our mother and grandmothers “Mama cooks with butter, of course she does, sugar.” She’s also expected to look like Grace Kelly while cooking like Betty Crocker. Mama doesn’t cut corners with margarine, “She’s got the dinner on the table, and the cookies in the cupboard,” because Mama cooks with butter! Anyone familiar with the role of wife and mother can empathize with the associated costs, and as the song progresses “Mama drinks straight whiskey,” even though she knows how to make perfect martinis and manhattans for social events. Of course she does, because Mama is efficient, and she cooks with butter.
Karen Jonas writes admirably crafted songs with intelligent, thought provoking lyrics, paired with music that inspires you to dance, cry, or just relax. They’re humbly presented and paired with first class musicians, devoted to the cause of making independent music. Look for her performing at venues across Virginia and beyond.
Karen Jonas - Acoustic Guitar, Vocals
Tim Bray- Electric Guitar
EP Jackson- Bass Guitar
Seth Brown- Drums
Learn more about Karen Jonas at:
Special thanks to Amber Renee Photography for use of photos: