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Dive and Fly
Artist: Jennifer Daniels
Label: TNtrees
Lengths: 12 tracks/49:39 minutes

Dive & Fly

Who is Jennifer Daniels? She's a modern-day folk singer-songwriter who hails from Lookout Mountain, Tennessee.  I don't think I've seen a regional singer and songwriter who is as honest with a lyrical and musical style since a concert I saw by the Pozo Seco Singers (giving away my age with that comment!) in the mid-'60s. I've seen her in concert twice in Columbia, South Carolina, with her  accompanist/producer/husband Jeff Neal. She's been on the road for about four years, and you are welcome to regard Dive and Fly as her first full-length project if you wish to do so, although she has the An
Invitation EP and the incredibly beautiful Fists of Flood under her belt already. As a Southeastern U.S. artist, Jennifer has taken Eddie's Attic in Decatur, Georgia, by storm, winning its shootout, and she's on her way to your town.

Daniels' music can be compared to Gordon Lightfoot, stylistically and lyrically, although her style is much more rock-edged. I might surprise Jennifer by making a parallel for the title track of this project to "The
Ark" from Gerry Rafferty's City to City (from 1978). Deja vu? Both songs are narrative poetry about the human condition, and both are Celtic. Rafferty's introduction to his project is almost dirge-like, and Daniels'
introduction to her project is definitely uplifting, with a beautiful lead-in, "Baker Street." Following this is the fan favorite, "Ohio."  You need to listen to this one, since it's much more honest and down-to-earth than "Baker Street." Jennifer's not from Ohio, but she leads me to believe that she is. It's the mark of a good artist!

"Planting Shoes" ("East Tennessee") and "Babylon" are beautifully introspective songs, featuring Jennifer's acoustic guitars and haunting lyrics, looking at Union County and Babylon. Absolutely beautiful songs. The
flow of these songs from the title track works all too well.

The full band follows nicely with "Daylight Runnin'" and "December," with a very sweet segue to "Try to Find Me," which has the Lightfoot sound (not quite; there are neat breaks within the acoustic guitars to an electric sound).

Many of Jennifer's lyrics are odes to God. "Try to Find Me," "River," and "Widening Sky" are love songs inspired by Jennifer's love for God. They are her praise and worship songs. From "River," featuring only Jennifer's voice, guitar and cello:

You could let me dance down inside your mind
Let our intellects battle for this heart of mine
But I don't have the strength....
You could pick me up; You could roll me round
Or you could throw me back with a splashing sound
Or crawl back into my arms, my love, and I will hold you.
Find your home in me.
In contrast to the sweet sounds, the crowd-pleaser from this project is "Day to Live," originally from Jennifer's An Invitation EP. Daniels definitely pleases with her vocal style of "we'll be feeding fishes by the sea," with her voice climbing uphill in a quick pace.

Not exactly a hidden track (it's not "advertised" on the liner notes), Daniels renders an incredibly beautiful a capella version of "Danny Boy," just after "Widening Sky," in which she salutes her own Lookout Mountain.

Dive and Fly exhibits the fact that this new singer-songwriter is much more than a Southeastern regional talent, on a much broader plane than Canadian Gordon Lightfoot or the U.K.'s Gerry Rafferty. Watch for the name of Jennifer Daniels very soon, since she's on her way to surpassing any comparisons I can make here at The Tollbooth

Olin Jenkins  04/28/2001.

Singer-songwriter Jennifer Daniels is back with her second full-length CD, Dive & Fly.  With her unique brand of edgy folk, Daniels takes her craft to yet another level, with a more fleshed out sound than her previous efforts.

Dive & Fly is an album about hopes and dreams, about reaching out for more than just our everyday, mundane lives.  Daniels speaks for all of us when she talks about the "feeling that we're made for more than we get."  She says the album also explores the grief that goes along with her "loneliness and unfaithfulness."

For those unfamiliar with Daniels and her music, she can best be compared to artists as diverse as Ani DiFranco, Joni Mitchell, Suzanne Vega, and Sarah McLachlan.  In fact, it is her voice that is the most impressive instrument on the disc.  She has amazing vocal range, both smooth and powerful, that matches up nicely with her well-crafted and literate lyric arrangements.

The album starts out with the Celtic-flavored title track, one of the more impressive songs on the disc.  This is followed by the near-anthemic "Ohio," which first appeared on her last full-length disc, Fists of Flood.  These are followed by several more traditional "folk" songs, "Planting Shoes" and "Babylon."

Other songs that stand out are "Daylight Running," "He Dances," and "Day to Live."  ("Day to Live" and another song, "Widening Sky" were originally done on the EP An Invitation.)  A touching moment comes with "Try to Find Me," a song about attempted reconciliation within a strained father/daughter relationship.  The album then wraps up with a "hidden" track," an a cappella version of the traditional Irish folk song "Danny Boy."

For this listener, the strongest moments on this disc are the more upbeat, full-band tunes, but the quieter, more acoustic efforts are sure to please fans of that style of music as well.

And if you check out the liner notes you'll appreciate some of the musicians who show up on the album.  Former Vigilantes of Love members Newton Carter and Dave LaBruyere lend a hand, while Daniels' husband, Jeff Neal, weighs in with guitars and mandolin.

Ken Mueller 5/22/2001

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