Review by Michael Jacobson
"Find your whole way back to me..."
There haven't been many CD releases over the past few years that I've looked forward to with as much anticipation as the new offering from Jo Potter. If you're one of the ones who had the pleasure of hearing her debut disc 8 Circles, you certainly won't be wondering why that is.
Singer/songwriter Jo Potter is, for me, one of the most distinctive voices either inside or outside of the independent scene. Her music needs no artificial embellishment, no production trickery, no illusions or games. Her songs find the most direct route to basic emotional cores, and her amazing voice mines for the feeling in each of them, bringing gold to the listener.
8 Circles remains one of the most promising debuts I've encountered, and Saved has made good on that promise. It's a musical testament to Ms. Potter's fearlessness as an artist...largely because she wasn't afraid to scale back the canvas instead of expanding it. Instead of adding more electric production, many of the songs are driven by pulsating acoustic guitars.
Right from the opening title track, Jo sets the stage as to what kind of album she wanted to make. You might think a finger-plucked unplugged guitar over simple bass and drums is no way to make an opening statement, but the potent lyrics about the power of love and Jo's soaring vocal lines are like lifting off into a musical journey above the clouds and through the human heart with all of its frailties and strengths, and with all of its triumphs and frustrations.
Potter's voice is a masterful instrument...both amazingly strong and surprisingly tender, with a playfully seductive side. The way she purrs the lyrics on "Good" is nothing short of smoldering. Plus, it's a track that shows Jo still has an electric side to her...if there's one tune that hearkens back to her debut CD, this might be the one.
After that, there's no looking back. "In Time" is a true revelation; a beautiful song that has become my most-played tune on my iPod. I can't imagine a music company executive anywhere in the world hearing this song and not stopping everything to sign Jo Potter. The melody is infectious, as are the words about forging ahead through the insecurities of love.
Ms. Potter proves an artist capable of tinkering with many styles, from the almost jazzy feel of "So Into You" to the bluesy, soulful approach of "When Things Go Wrong", with its positive attitude and backing vocal tracks accenting the chorus. It might remind you of the great Motown tunes of the 60s, while "Something", with its slower 6/8 beat and sharp accent guitars might drift you back to the classic breezy FM sounds of the 70s.
But Potter only uses these as building blocks in creating her own unique sound, which comes to fruition in "So Beautiful", both the album version and the bonus acoustic rendering. This song is, for me, most indicative of the Jo Potter sound, particularly in the way she seems to use her voice effortlessly to guide her band from simple, straightforward beginnings to loftier and greater heights.
And it's from the angel-like affirmation of "So Beautiful" that Jo finds her more devilish side, with a tune like "Give it To Me". You kind of get the feeling that when she sings "baby, please", she's not really asking!
Saved is a volume of work that shows an amazing artist spreading her wings even further, with sublime confidence in her voice and message and willing to explore both in multiple directions. Jo Potter has never been afraid to let her talent guide her choices, and with her range of style and emotion, I'm glad she chooses not to box herself in to a safe, established package. She's demonstrated to me as a fan that she's capable of going in any direction she wants, and I hope she'll never feel the need to contain her music or her amazingly beautiful voice.
To learn more about Jo Potter or to find out how to order Saved, visit her website at www.jopotter.com!