The loss of dear loved ones in recent years has opened my heart and given me more reason to sing and to write than ever before, which is why I felt the time was right to record my first album of original songs. I pour all of the sad stuff into my music and it somehow comes out in the way that I sing and write, so it really is a form of catharsis for me.Jo Harrop on Bandcamp
‘The Heart Wants What The Heart Wants’ gets the album underway in blues style. Hannah Vasanth on piano introduces the tune and then takes a supporting role to Jo Harrop’s vocals, the playing throughout is beautifully paced and the bass of Christian McBride compliments it so well. However, it is the horn section that highlight the emotional pull of this composition by Jo and Hannah: this is such a good opening number. Christian McBride duets with Jo on ‘All Too Soon’, a slow jazz number comparable with some of the best in female vocals from the genre’s golden age. The fact that this is a duet means that neither bassist or vocalist have anywhere to hide, not that either need to. It was the relative simplicity of this Ellington/Sigman song that drew me in, but it was the delivery that kept me there.
‘Everything’s Changing’ is the first track that highlights that this album is not just a jazz/blues outing. The tune has an American adult contemporary feel to it with well written lyrics and some wonderful trumpet playing from Andy Davies. ‘I Think You’d Better Go’ continues in a similar vein but features Jamie McCredie on guitar, a very strong partnership that first came to light on the album release from 2020, Weathering The Storm. Paul Edis takes to the piano for ‘Wise Words’, another lyrically powerful composition given added depth with the use of a string section.
Things take a different direction with ‘Red Mary Janes & A Brand New Hat’ with Jason Rebello on piano and Jihad Darwish on bass. We are back in blues territory with this track and Jason plays his part so well and, for me, helps make this the stand-out number on the album. Jamie McCredie opens ‘Hold On’, is a soulful Muscle Shoals style tune that maintains interest with another set of great lyrics and superb playing – I must admit to having had to look up Muscle Shoals to discover the “style fused hillbilly, blues, rock’n’roll, soul, country, and gospel, to create a sound that cherry-picked the best features of each to forge something new.” The tune ‘Life Inside’ again features Jamie McCredie on guitar, but it is the vocals that really stand out here, particularly with the addition of the voice of Marcus Bonfanti.
‘What If’ is in a similar style to the earlier track ‘All Too Soon’ and shows off beautifully Jo’s phrasing and use of vocal range. The use of woodwind from Tommy Andrews is subtle but gives added depth to both vocal and piano. ‘If I Knew’ is described as “chamber pop” and the lyrics are by Jo Harrop who had sent them to Paul Edis; he added the tune “which became the key that unlocked the door to creating [the] album.” I am not sure that the use of the word “pop” really does justice to this beautiful tune which, in my opinion, would not be out of place in a top West End musical.
‘Rainbow Sleeves’ is a great interpretation of this Tom Waits tune. Sarah Bowler adds the cello to the mix giving this version a wonderful sonorous sound that blends perfectly with Jo Harrop’s vocals. ‘If Ever I would Leave You’, written by Lerner and Lowe for the musical Camelot, is played by Jason Rebello who gives the tune plenty of space to be filled by Jo’s vocals. This is another strong pairing which highlights how good Jo Harrop is in a duet setting. ‘Weather The Storm’ is listed as a bonus track on the CD so I presume that this does not feature on the vinyl release. This bonus features a choir who enhance the feel of another Muscle Shoals inspired number.
The final word on this album release should go to Jo Harrop:
These songs feel timeless, but they also reflect where we are here and now, caught up in life’s bittersweet journey. Music has been my whole world for as long as I can remember; it has always had the power to transport me and to move me deep inside, and I want to create the same emotional connection with people who hear my songs.
I would not describe this as a jazz album but as an album of stylistically varied, well-crafted tunes played by musicians who clearly understand the emotional connection that Jo Harrop is trying to make. Since first hearing Jo on Weathering The Storm, I understood just how good a vocalist she is, what this album also does is allow us to hear her inner voice through her lyrics. Does she connect with people on am emotional level? The answer to that is personal to the listener but this album now takes its place among some of the very best vocalists in my collection.
The Heart Wants will be released through Lateralize Records on Limited Edition heavyweight vinyl and CD on 8th October 2021 and can be purchased on Bandcamp.
Jo Harrop will be performing songs from The Heart Wants at London’s Cadogan Hall on 5th November 2021.
Track list: 1. The Heart Wants What The Heart Wants. 2. All Too Soon. 3. Everything’s Changing. 4. I Think You’d Better Go. 5. Wise Words. 6. Red Mary Janes & A Brand New Hat. 7. Hold On. 8. Life Inside. 9. What If. 10. If I Knew. 11. Rainbow Sleeves. 12 If Ever I Would Leave You. Bonus Track. Weather The Storm