Johnson’s vulnerability is refreshing.
Potter & Clay
Artist: Jaylene Johnson (www.jaylenejohnson.com)
Length: 12 tracks/44 minutes
The simplicity and forthrightness in Potter & Clay by Jaylene Johnson is appealing. Witness the starkly confessional opening track, “Fallin’”:
There are things I’ve done I never should’ve done
Things I’ve said I never should’ve said
I can’t forget, it’s messing with my head
The things I’ve done, the things I’ve said
Earthy acoustic rhythm and guitars that stretch the notes provide a haunting backdrop. The resolve comes in the chorus. The singer is falling, not into a place of hopelessness, but “into the arms of mercy.”
The first line in the next track, “How Long,” seems so fitting, “Who led me to this desert?” In Scripture the desert is a place of testing, which can prompt questions and wrestling, “Am I being punished/For what I did or didn’t do.” Listeners will find an authentic grappling with faith and doubt throughout this release.
The sparse instrumentation on the piano-driven “One Tiny Prayer” complements the beautiful transparency:
Trees so tall go beyond my sight
Feel so small ’neath this patch of sky
I’m out of place and I’m wond’ring why I came
Here is solace for the disenfranchised and forgotten. It’s like their voice is mirrored in these lines, reminding them, you are not alone. Even if all seems lost, you too can whisper His name and be heard.
Johnson continually makes herself vulnerable through revealing lyrics. If you are going through any kind of struggle, this could be your soundtrack. This brings comfort and hope.
The songs are wonderfully organic. There are few synthesized sounds. The arrangements are straightforward and immediately likeable, and the tones are pure.
Having become familiar with producer Murray Pulver’s work with Steve Bell, I hear the roots oriented influence. The former sings and performs on almost every song. He is a top-notch producer and musician, which is plainly evident here.
Steve Bell adds guitars and vocals to “Lord of All,” which stylistically and lyrically is like a modern hymn.
Occasionally, I hear a country and/or bluegrass influence. “Pray, Pray Again,” which features Joey Landreth on dobro would be right at home on an Alison Krauss recording. It’s an encouragement to pray in every situation.
A favorite is “Rest in Me (In the Meantime).” Fittingly, it is warm and relaxed, almost country rock.
Another upbeat, more pop-oriented track is “Find Us,” which includes a trumpet solo. It expresses a desire for God to meet us in all the places where we either find ourselves and/or choose to hide.
“This Little Light” could be a whimsical play on the thought in the old Sunday School chorus. In dramatic voice Johnson chronicles a journey. Being tired and feeling foolish, she hides from everyone, not letting her light shine. But contemplating the flame that is now just a spark, she cries out in prayer. She wants to let her light shine. Lastly, she casts herself on God’s mercy, which becomes her ground for telling others “Far and wide/This little light of mine/I am gonna let it shine.”
Special thanks to Steve Bell and Signpost Music for getting behind this project and bringing it to my attention. If you like Bell’s recent releases, you will most likely enjoy this as the style and sound are somewhat similar.
This is the Winnipeg native’s third full-length release.