photo: Michelle Smith-Lewis
Listened to as a whole (as albums should be), the songs on JR Rhodes' most recent outing I Am offer a narrative of the songwriter's life and longings; her beautifully human need to become herself ("look, Mama, no hands as I make my own way" from the song Aeroplane); her longing to feel deeply but to also let her burdens go ("lay the worry down, the load you carry’s not your own"); her need to escape ("big fat Cadillac, take me for a ride, I wanna go anywhere but here"); and ultimately her yearning for peace of mind ("when I live my truth I am myself... you’re sweet, Freedom").
I Am is folk, rock, blues and traces of jazz, bopping and swaying, soaring and swinging, from song to song providing the foundation for Rhodes' rich, resonant voice and tuneful melodicism to guide us into the soulfulness of her inner life, a gift given to those who wish to listen. And as it goes with the gifts of artists, JR's ability to bring universal themes down to a personal level is what makes her music so special, and so necessary.
Recorded and produced by Johnny Sangster at his Crackle & Pop! Studios in Seattle, I Am features many of Seattle's finest session musicians, including guitarist Jeff Fielder who shares a songwriting credit with Rhodes and Sangster on "Baby," a song that brings to mind the soul singer Jill Scott.
In addition to I Am, Rhodes has numerous other recordings that we hope to someday offer; Elixir (2011), Afriqueen Stare (2003), Songs of Angels (1999), as well as Lullabies, a performance of traditional spirituals she performed at Seattle's On the Boards 12 Minutes Max dance, theater and music program in 2013; and 2 Old Chicks, a 50-piece orchestral film score, created in collaboration with Doris Bartha and Steve Brush in 2005.