Jenn Cleary – Back to the Wheel

January 01, 1970



She may sound sassy and assured, but there’s something
distinctly old school and traditional about Colorado’s Jenn Cleary. One need
venture no further than the embraceable melodies that survey swing, blues and
retro pop in ways that make them seem both new and yet strikingly familiar. As
a result, Back to the Wheel provides
such a vast potpourri of moods and music that anyone attempting to pigeonhole
her might well end up seething with frustration. The Cajun shuffle
“Summertime’s the Time” (a celebratory sequel Mungo Jerry might have otherwise
embraced), the effortlessly upbeat “Last Day of Vacation Blues,” the sassy vamp
“Don’t Try and Change Me” and the retro soul embossed in “Back to the Wheel”
and “Those Boys” (each of which would have found a natural fit with Janis
Joplin and Southside Johnny, respectively) find her off in different directions
at the expense of espousing any single style.


Still Cleary’s clearly not fickle, at least in terms of her
emotional investment. On intimate ballads like “Moments of Grace,” Hope” and
“Little Mr. Street Survivor,” she’s capable of bringing her listeners to tears
by recounting the sad stories of children sidelined by disease and those
otherwise victimized by indifference and misfortune. For all her outreach and
versatility, it’s those bittersweet moments that create the most lingering
bonds and make Back to the Wheel so
absolutely affecting.


to the Wheel,” “Moments of Grace,” “Those Boys” LEE ZIMMERMAN

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