Caitlin Jemma Straddles Soul, Country and Pop on ‘True Meaning’ (ALBUM REVIEW)

Caitlin Jemma is a singer-songwriter who doesn’t fit easily into any one category. A lot of country sounds permeate her music, but she’s also a little bit folk and a little bit soul.

One thing you can say definitively is that she is prolific. Her debut album Love Notes was released in 2018 and was followed by Places beyond You and Me in 2019. Like a lot of artists, Jemma found time and inspiration in the isolation of COVID-19. That led her to write and record True Meaning, a 10-song collection that expresses the uncertainty we have all felt since we first heard of the virus that has dominated the news cycle for the last two years. Of the new album, she said, “We often move through life forgetting about the miracle it is to simply be alive. True Meaning is a concept album with the intention to connect us back towards what is important for a meaningful life. And for me that is appreciating moments like sitting in the morning sun, going on long desert drives, getting together with my big family band, and allowing myself to feel the spectrum of emotion that comes with being a human. If I could distill it into one thing I would say it’s about being present with the mystery and preciousness of being alive.“

“One Little Feeling” leads the album. Between the slide guitar and the shuffling beat, this is a song that is perfect for slow dancing in a honky tonk. It kind of lulls you into thinking that this is going to be a country album. While there is a country component, this album goes on to reveal itself as so much more than a country album.

You could say that “Yes” is a little bit country too, and you wouldn’t be wrong. However, the country aspect of this song comes more from the fact that a lot of country singers grew up singing gospel. Perhaps the best way to put it is to say that this song lives at the confluence of soul, gospel, and country, although It leans a little harder toward soul with the horns and organ. In that regard, it has some similarity to a Tedeschi-Trucks Band song. The gospel component is mostly in the call-and-response between Jemma and the backing vocalists.

“Color” is a bouncy retro pop song with some soul. The backing vocals and the guitar give the song something of a 60s feel, like something you might see on a variety show from that time The backing vocals will have you singing along. The organ at the end of the song is so bright, you can’t help but smile until it comes to an abrupt end. 

Vocally, Jemma has some similarity to Charlie Faye. Like Faye, she has the ability to sing in a variety of styles like country, pop, and soul. Jemma’s voice is also similar in tone although it is a little more airy than Faye’s. Jemma could just as easily have been the vocalist for an all-girl power-pop group in the 90s.

This is a strong album that shows Jemma’s prowess as a songwriter. With catchy melodies and lyrics, it’s easy to find yourself singing along with these songs. Not only that, but this album makes you look forward to what is next from this talented artist.

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