Those who have followed Megan Jerome’s musical oeuvre know that her style is uninhibited and saturated with inexorable charm. Those who haven’t will be thrilled to discover it for themselves with her new album Ooh Ahh, which showcases Jerome’s inspired songwriting and musicianship alongside her distinctive charisma. It was released with much hullabaloo last Wednesday evening at the National Arts Centre’s Fourth Stage, and as Jerome’s sixth album, it is a tribute to a life of unrestrained love and tenacity.
The songs on Ooh Ahh are uniquely original and draw on the legacy of jazz, soul, and roots music. The album is full of creative melodic and harmonic twists and turns that trace a path led by irresistible rhythmic grooves and elegant lyricism. Vintage sonorities abound, in no small part from the fantastic Together Ensemble who join her on the album, featuring Fred Guignion on guitar, Don Cummings on organ, and Mike Essoudry on drums.
Jerome’s voice encapsulates a quiet reverence, at once lucid and tangible. Throughout the album, she sews together whispering intimacy with an assertive clarity. She doesn’t shy away from playing with timbres, inflections, speech, and, at times, pushing her voice to the limit to great effect. Songs on the album range in stylistic approach, but each retains Jerome’s free and gracious personality. From the title track, “Ooh Ahh”, an aural journey into astral textures and heady layered vocals, to “Lumières Tortières” a pithy, playful, propulsive little ditty, the album is an amalgam of fresh individuality and borrowed-from-yesteryear sound.
Songs like “Let it Come” and “The Way You Love Me is as Big as the Moon,” are concise in their instrumentation: there are only a few moving parts, but each is necessary and fleshes out the sound of each tune into fully realized songs. Nothing more is needed, nor could anything be taken away. Together, the ensemble manages to be robust and cogent. It’s not surprising that each player is in such high demand in Ottawa and beyond, and collectively they’re magic.
“Stars Streak Across the Sky” is wonderfully cabalistic, sultry dance that highlights not only Jerome’s capable vocals but Guignion’s slide guitar work. In fact, this feels at times more like a dreamy duet between the two. All the while, Essoudry’s percussion plays with texture and timbre, at the same time driving a groove so deep that you could fall into it.
The last song on the album, “F*ck it! Your Voice is Love!” is a potent pop soul anthem that champions a life lived with passion, creative force, and aplomb. Cummings’s organ coupled with call and response vocals produce a distinctly gospel feel; it’s a rousing number that drives home Jerome’s ardent message, and is a decidedly triumphant way to close out the album.
Instinctive and improvisatory, yet meticulously executed, Megan Jerome’s Ooh Ahh is well worth your time, so be sure to be sure to listen to and purchase on Jerome’s website. To experience the magic in person, don’t miss out on the next live show on Saturday, January 13 at the Ascension Concert Series.