Review by Crispin Kott, March 26, 2009
According to its liner notes, Jen Clapp’s new CD Lonesome Sunbeam was recorded on solar power. Even if that’s impossible to tell by listening to the music, it’s worth mentioning, as the album is warm, intimate, and inviting. Performing with a full band on this solo debut, Clapp sounds comfortable and confident, equally at ease in moodier numbers, like the album’s tender title track and “Last Ride,” as she is in those that shimmy and shake, such as “Voodoo Baby.” The prevalent sound might be considered as being under the alt.country umbrella; see “Might Have Moved On” and the wistful “Tenderheart,” both of which feature aching violin played by Sara Milonovich. But there’s much more than meets the eye, including what might on paper seem impossible: the blending of the earnestness of the ’70s singer-songwriter with the goosebump-raising atmospherics of Portishead on the drums-free “Last Ride.” “Icy Windows” might be Lonesome Sunbeam’s artistic tentpole; the lyric’s somber feeling of yearning blends seamlessly with the music, floating in the slow wake of guitars, keyboards, and Clapp’s gentle voice.
A former member of New York band Native Tongue, Clapp was a key player in the early ’90’s folk-punk scene in the city, with a steady gig at the legendary Cafe Sin-é, the stomping grounds of a young Jeff Buckley. Representing something of a return, it’s clear Lonesome Sunbeam is right where Clapp belongs.
Cold Spring, NY
Absolutely beautiful. Jen clearly came up from the depths to bring us these beautiful, lucid songs.
Jen and I have been friends for many years. The first time I met her was at my home in Newburgh back in January of 2000 when I hosted a singer/songwriter evening with about a dozen of my favorite females. She arrived with her newborn baby girl in a sling to take part in the event (and I swear, that baby looked like a miniature Bjork with her head of dark hair!). Over the years, we’ve shared ideas and ideals, hardships and pleasures and our drive to make music in the most heartfelt and loving way.
There are a lot of great singers around – but few who actually stir the quiet, inspired place in me that I mostly only experience when I sit down to write my own songs. It’s a voice that evokes a crisp winter’s night or the warm August sun. Childhood memories, momentous or bittersweet. As true, clear and organic as nature itself.
I’ve decided that it really isn’t useful for me to break down her most recent recording, Lonesome Sunbeam, song by song. Who am I to say what these songs are to mean to anyone else? Or to guess their intention?
Instead, I’d like to focus on the record in its entirety and what I can offer in a review – is that Jen is a consummate artist. Whether she is writing, singing, cooking, child rearing, gardening, or for some of us – for me – lucky enough to call her friend – she does everything with the highest standards, grace – and integrity.
She is simply one of the finest human beings around. Take her offering, and bask in all that is Jen Clapp. You’ll see what I mean.
Kingston Daily Freeman
Review by David Malachowski, January 16, 2009
Hudson Valley singer-songwriter Jen Clapp played in the East Village a decade ago with band Native Tongue, then chose marriage, midwifery and motherhood in San Francisco. But all roads lead back to Beacon and singing, and she is back with a vengeance with a masterful new album called “Lonesome Sunbeam” — her debut solo release.
Produced by Oy Mendelsson, this CD was recorded mostly at Clapp’s home (the wave of the future?). This collection kicks off confidently with the lush, layered “On Seven Stones.” Title track “Lonesome Sunbeam” has a free flowing groove and a thick, luxurious vocal delivery.
Clapp carries on with the hopeful, snappy “Photograph.” In the dreamy “Last Ride” Clapp sounds silky and soft. “Tenderheart” holds a haunting tale of love and loss. “Icy Windows” juxtaposes country harmonies with a dreamy jazzy underpinning, where Clapp says “there’s nothing to believe in” (but it’s hard to believe her). The ethereal “Up In Smoke” is a highpoint. Sara Milonovich’s violin takes “Might Have Moved On” up a notch, while “Voodoo Baby” almost rocks out.
Though Clapp doesn’t stray far from the standard female singer-songwriter template, the music is so gorgeous and well done, it matters not at all.
Graceful and often majestic, Clapp will win great applause with this fine work.
FAME – Folk and Acoustic Music Exchange
Review by Mike Jurkovic, February 2009
Having shared co-writer credits on songs by Chris Difford of Squeeze and Adam Levy of Norah Jones fame, Jen Clapp knows a thing or two or ten about songwriting and you can hear it here as she explores the space between pop and alt-country on several pristine nuggets of reflection. The title track, for one, lilts Zen-like "…a lonesome sunbeam persisting through the gray". The moody Icy Windows ("When there's nothing but a question / Where a woman used to be") serves as a sort of prologue to the James Taylor-countrified Might Have Moved On where self-realization ("I may have moved on / But the rules are still in place") isn't a resignation, but a triumph of will.
Supportive ensemble playing by all, especially bassists Jason Sarubbi and Simon Walsh; drummer Dan Fisherman and guitarist Adam Elk from the seldom heard but heralded Mommyheads provide a quiet, assuring atmosphere while violinist Sara Milonovich (Richard Shindell) and guitarist Jason Crigler (Linda Thompson, Marshall Crenshaw) add their musical colors behind Clapp's plaintive, ruminative, and always hopeful, vocals.