The Phantom Tollbooth

No Hesitation
Artist:  Jeni Varnadeau
Label:  Pamplin Music
URL: http://www.pamplinmusic.com/jeniv/
Length: 10 track/43:03 min.
 
When I first saw Jeni Varnadeau (then just "Jeni V") in 1994, I was a freshman in college; I met her after the show while buying the six-song EP that was on sale.  After getting her bright purple autograph on the cover and spending some time talking to this very down-to-earth artist, I quickly became a fan of her music. Since then, it's been a privelige to see Varnadeau continue to mature as a musician and Christian, as well as see some of those same songs from four years ago appear on her Pamplin Music releases.  Her most recent album, No Hesitation, is simply another testament to her hard work and love for music and Christ.
 
"Simply" is certainly an appropriate word.  In interviews, Varnadeau is often quick to mention simplicity, her committed reliance on God, even for the smallest of tasks, and is quite adept at transmitting this important attitude in her music.  The first track, "Mercy," is a perfect example, and not the only one.   Nine more songs await the listener, all full of amazing clarity and though-provoking lyrics. These attributes are clearly evidenced on tracks such as "I Need You" and "Free to be Free."

No Hesitation is an album that is neither sugar-coated nor overly cerebral.  With a wide variety of songs ranging from "Shaken" to my favorite, "Come with Me," this energetic album is an excellent sophomore effort from Varnadeau, probably one of the better balanced albums out there.  While this album is most certainly a pleasant addition to any Christian music collection, it carries the possibility of becoming a favorite selection for any fan of mellow, alternative rock.

By Corey Welton (12/6/98)
 

J.V. is no amateur, despite her initials. I wondered what the big deal was about Jeni Varnadeau when a friend of mine drove the more than three-hour journey from Columbia, South Carolina to Atlanta, Georgia to see Jeni Varnadeau. Well, I’m beginning to understand this red-head’s appeal. She has a free and sassy sound to her voice. The album alternates between emo-rock songs and ballads. The even-numbered tracks on this CD have a slower tempo but it is the faster-paced, odd-numbered tracks that catch my ear.

Varnadeau opens up with a song called "Mercy" reminiscent of Third Eye
Blind’s song "Semi-Charmed Life," with its rhythmic guitars and vocals. Catchy, hummable choruses are centered around vocally driven melodies that melt into technically pleasing guitar bridges.

Here are some of my favorite lyrics: “I can’t make it on my own, can’t live all alone, I’m helpless by myself” (“I need you”); “Free to laugh just a little longer, free to love like you want me to, Lord, take me to that place where I’m free to be free” (“Free to be Free”); and “If I believed with holy passion, I’d throw hesitation to the wind, if I would love you with abandon, my trust in you would never end ("If I Believed").

Varnadeau doesn’t write her own music or play an instrument but collaborates with writers like Jimmie Lee Sloas and that dynamic brother duo of Christian music, John and Dino Elephante. Her vocals are of a surprisingly mainstream sound, considering she says grew up in New Mexico listening mostly to Christian musicians. She said she has been especially influenced by the music of Charlie Peacock. This is Varnadeu’s sophomore album, following her 1996 release Colors of Truth, also produced by Pamplin.

Despite her cutesy popular look, she definitely transcends bubble gum pop music, although she could stand to lean toward her more gutsy emo-rock sound on tracks like "I Need You." The song has some real guts and passion to it, as well as the tasty sound of heavily flanged metal guitars. I think it is the best song on the album and Varnadeau’s most freewheeling break-away-from-pop vocal sound. I loved every odd numbered song on this CD; the others were O.K.

By Israel Kloss (1/23/99)