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Jann Arden -- Blood Red Cherry  (Zoe/Rounder)
by Randy Krbechek

Canadian singer Jann Arden is not one to shy from striking imagery. With her fifth album, the Calgary-born singer develops a sound that is best described as graceful - witty and wise, infused with guitars and texture, yet ultimately centered on Arden's poise.

Which makes Jann the most unlikely of buskers. Jann has brought home six Juno Awards (two for her debut, Time For Mercy, and four for 1994's Living Under June), and has record sales exceeding two million. Yet Jann remains rooted, and can often be found behind the counter of the famous Calgary eatery, the Arden Diner.

Jann is not afraid to try to understand the big picture, as on songs like "Sleepless," in which she sings, "Four billion people surround us/So many souls lose their way/All that we have is each other/And that's all I've ever wanted."

Jann is the flipside of the Alanis Morissette experience - a voice sweet and beguiling, yet not torn by angst. Witness the elegiac "I Only Wanted Sex," or the sultry "Best Dressed," with its line, "Puttin' on a kiss that will last until dawn/I'm going to town with my best dress on."

On Blood Red Cherry, Jann again teams with producer Ed Cherney, who has assembled a host of able studio hands, including David Faragher on bass, Russell Broom on electric guitar, acoustic guitar, moog, and e-bow guitar, Mark Goldenberg on keyboards and drum loops, and Gregg Bissonett on drums. Also appearing are Dillon O'Brien on backing vocals, Rami Jaffee on Hammond B-3 organ, and Allison Cornell on violin.

Jann's strength comes from within. Says the artist, "One tends to really think about life and death when they get a pacemaker installed at twenty years old. I kept wondering what people would say about me at my funeral. I even wondered what I would say about myself."

Comments producer Ed Cherney, "It occurs to me, looking back on all her work, that Jann is one of the purest sounding female pop singers walking the face of the earth."

That's an accurate assessment. Zoe Records continues a hot streak, focusing on pop with folk leanings (including the Nields). The problem is that their albums get a little long - at almost 58 minutes, Blood Red Cherry could stand a little trimming.

Yet Jann Arden is an honest artist, and builds without artifice.

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-- Randy Krbechek
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