ALBUMS OF THE WEEK: Fiona Apple and Jess Jocoy

It’s very, very rare that I hear an album where not a single track is a let-down.  This week, I’m focusing on TWO such albums.  First, “Fetch the Bolt Cutters.”  Much has already been written in praise of this record, and it’s all true.  Its balance of confession, revelation, primitive rage and isolated angst is the perfect record for the year of the COVID, where a sexual predator in charge of the country is directing U.S. citizens to do the exact opposite of what they should do to survive. The line, “You raped me in the same bed your daughter was born,” haunts me. Schoolteacher Shameika’s belief in a distracted, unconventional student gives me hope. The loneliness of “wanting somebody to want” resonates with stay-home orders and the shut-down on human contact. Song after song, this is a perfect record. Perfect.

But as I said, there’s two perfect albums this week. Quite a rarity. The second is next.

Jess Jocoy’s “country” album is not to be missed. And yet a record as quiet as this one, with no big names attached, is at serious risk of being overlooked.

Jocoy cites Jasobn Isbell as an influence, and that’s pretty clear. Her songwriting is as tight as possible–complex lyrics that don’t have a single extra word, carried on simple, catchy phrases with subtle hooks. Nothing here is top 40. And every line is a keeper.

This is real poetry. Extremely powerful. Amazing. For fans of Isbell, Brandi Carlile, Lori McKenna…This kind of down-to-earth, emotionally resonant writing is exactly what Americana is all about.


I almost picked THREE albums for this week, but I didn’t want to risk diluting the message that Fiona and Jess’ albums are perfect in every way.

Shelby Lynne is another veteran Americana/folk artist with a long history of excellence, and she’s got a self-titled album out. It’s very good, straddling the line between torch singer and country singer.

Also Gabe Lee’s Honky Tonk Hell is another fun country record.

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