Jennifer Kimball


Still Waving

That Jennifer Kimball is less well lodged in the collective
consciousness than her erstwhile collaborator Jonatha
Brooke (with whom she formed the acclaimed duo The
Story) is doubtless down to a patchy career dominated
by, what in this day and age might be referred to as
"work-life balance decisions". Kimball quit The Story
in 1994 at the height of their success and has since
released just one other solo album, 1998's Veering
From The Wave. No matter, established fans and
those discovering Kimball afresh with Oh Hear Us will
concur that the wait has been worth it.

Recorded in a period of emotional and physical upheaval

  • Kimball was pregnant during the recording and had

recently lost her mother to cancer - Oh Hear Us
reflects and integrates the turmoil of its conception.
Conflicting feelings of joy and despair, pain and
comfort, doubt and faith are all explored, with Kimball
fully inhabiting the moment, the clarity of her voice
creating a perfect foil for each vignette. She is a subtle
performer too, never resorting to theatrics to convey
false emotion and these songs are all the more powerful
for their simplicity and apparent effortlessness.

The jaunty country-folk of Can't Climb Up belies the
poignancy of the lyric exploring a daughter's broken
relationship with her dad, words that gain additional
chill with the knowledge of Kimball's own strained
paternal relationship. Indeed, family is a prevalent
theme that's dealt with gracefully on each occasion.
Eternal Father (an adaptation of the hymn Eternal
Father Strong To Save) and Last Ride Home are both
sombre eulogies to the death of her mum, while Don't
Take Your Love Away neatly twists the standard tale
of a betrayed wife with the final revelation: "I'm reading
this too close to home / I've got some letters and a
box of my own".

Is He Or Isn't He? provides a change in mood, affect-
ionately musing on life as a singleton and the knowing
pretences everyone indulges in over gentle African
rhythms and Hawaiian guitar. Elsewhere, Kimball excels
in painting story tableaux that explore the complex
emotions of, for wont of a better phrase, "the human
condition". When I Was Lost sees her take on the
mantle of an economic migrant eking out a living, the
pain of absence assuaged by the innate strength of
love. East Of Indiana and Lightning Bug, on the other
hand, seem to suggest that isolation is just plain lone-
liness and a dose of regret, a theme echoed in Ballad
#61's exquisitely dour bluesy folk.

After all this despondent introspection, Kimball employs
James Taylor's favourite trick of leavening the mood
with a jazz-swing standard to close on, in this case
the old Bing Crosby number, Wrap Your Troubles In
Dreams. Sung with an audible smile and a knowing
wink, Kimball and her band clearly revelled in the
experience, with a fabulously cheesy guitar solo from
producer Duke Levine and Kevin Barry hitting most of
the right notes in mostly the right order with his devil-
may-care whistling solo. Oh Hear Us is a fitting
addition to Jennifer Kimball's all too selective oeuvre

  • our fervent prayer is that we won't have to wait

another eight years for the next instalment.

updated: 12 years ago