SONGS MY MOTHER SANG (Grassroots Records)
A charming collection of traditional folk and hymns that feels like a solid front porch singalong.
An album of traditional American folk with an Appalachian feeling; fans of Karen Dalton and Jean Ritchie take note. Most songs have well developed harmonies with two female voices, some with fascinating arrangements which almost delve into wyrdfolk. Normally, I might wonder if it were important to seek out new traditional albums like this, but when something sounds as timeless as this album, with just a dash of modern flourish, it certainly is worth it.
Folk World #51
After a prolonged absence, Jennifer Leonhardt (you may remember her from the acclaimed band The Pattycakes from the early aughts) has returned with a truly moving album. Songs My Mother Sang is a tribute to her late mother, and by her interpretations of these traditional tracks, I suspect they are songs Leonhardt was raised on and show her to be an honest musician with a rare depth to her singing.
Adobe & Teardrops
SOVEREIGN (Grassroots Records)
Almost primeval in the way the album has been constructed, Leonhardt’s raw, refreshing vocals are the perfect delivery. The label name couldn’t be more apt. This is music coming up from the earth, nourished by a passion to live and grow in the hearts of mankind itself. A bit over the top, you may think, but for me this album is a continuation of a heartfelt sound that goes back in time to when making your own music was one of the few things that gave people some solace at their workplace, and during those hard-earned moments when work was put aside to celebrate an event, like weddings, parties… anything; even just being alive. This is music that has been shorn of any ‘extras’, music that is almost primeval in the way it has been constructed. Jennifer’s vocals are perfect in their delivery of these ten superlative songs, coming from her very heart, a slightly raw but refreshing voice that has belief running through its core. The production fits perfectly, as it too has a raw and uncomplicated edge to it, a homemade simplicity conjured from this live performance, with only acoustic guitar accompaniment, backing vocals occasionally (Juliet Tondowski), and a very gentle bass introduction on “Shoot U Up”. She is a very fine songwriter. There are words here about life, shattered dreams, betrayal, but most of all love. The opening track “Taken Care Of” deals with life: ‘Having dinner… and my bike is leaning… against a wall… and I have to… take the trash out… and wash my hands… before my mother calls’. “America” shows us shattered dreams ‘I’m a Louisiana purchase… And a dry Dakota grain… Once was a man… made my heart move fast… I’d wait for him like a hillside… In a darkening plain’. Betrayal crops up on track five, “Belonging”: ‘Get yourself together… Or get you gone… There is no forgiveness… No heart of understanding… When you’ve stepped across… You’re as good as done”. I’ve left love ‘til last, because the fragile words on this subject are a far more common trait on this album, the aforementioned “Shoot U Up” being a fine example ‘Damn the spaces between us… Put your skin on me… Stain me all over… With your love’. What Jennifer delivers here, with these ten heartfelt songs, is a tribute to love and life, and one that, should you miss out on, could leave a rather large hole in your musical character. Jennifer worked 24 hours a day until the album was done. Grand words again, maybe, but I have to try to convince you somehow, don’t I? Believe my words – listening to Jennifer sing her words maybe the only way to keep that character of yours complete.
Leicester Bangs Magazine
MINSTREL’S DAUGHTER (Waterbug Records)
A master class in mournful music.
Well out of the storms, occasionally, a rainbow, a bird singing to ya sweetly from the Tower of Song, the vision rising on weary eyes. My friend Helen Degen Cohen has a book called “On a Good Day, One Discovers Another Poet,” and sometimes it seems like there are not enough good days. But I had a feeling about this recording, even before I heard it, and well, this is something extraordinary. Poetic, forthright, redemptive songs.
Andrew Calhoun, Waterbug Records
Jennifer is a spirit-singer. No gimmicks, just a raw authentic voice. Listening to her I felt instant memory, a sense of place. A rare talent.
Women in Music w/ Laney Goodman
I know too little about Jennifer Leonhardt. I know that one writer I trust, Luke Torn of Pop Culture Press, gave her his endorsement and for me, that counts for a lot. I know that various people in the music community talk highly of her. And I know the music of 2009’s Minstrel’s Daughter. I have been listening to it for a couple of weeks now. Sometimes an album comes along that you have to listen to until it is time to let go. This is one. On Minstrel’s Daughter, Leonhardt plays and sings loose music supported by looser musicians and if you don’t hear it right away, give it time. It grows on you. It is mountain music without the mountain—a collection of tone poems from the backwoods and the high plains. Because it was so obviously personal to her, it is personal to me. It is melodic paisley in the rough and, to my ears, a triumph.
Frank Gutch Jr, No Depression
Jennifer Leonhardt’s Minstrel’s Daughter is a statement of innocence and wonder wrapped around gratitude. Leonhardt touches on folk-chamber parameters for this intriguing and mysterious music.
All Music Guide
Opening on the sound of a melancholic cello, the Ft Worth singer-songwriter’s album serves an opening course of minimalist, atmospheric rural chapel folk before shuffling around on a brushed country melody, followed by the title track’s psych blues jam. Production values are largely non existent but it does give the album a similar down-home cabin feel to the likes of Bon Iver and Co as Leonhardt’s strength with words and beguiling melodies slowly work their magic.
The broken and destructive relationships respectively fueling the mournful, fiddle-stroked backwoods hymnal folk of “More Rope” and the late night hillside stargazing mood of “Line Of Fire” provide album highlights, while the acoustic “Kerby Lane Jubilee” wraps it up in classic early-Joni style.
An industrial take on Americana, it’s a little reminiscent of Emmylou Harris recording with Daniel Lanois but even more stripped down and atmospheric. A left leaning set in an already left leaning genre, Leonhardt delivers the kind of set the cognoscenti will refer to in hushed tones as they pass the mp3s around.
On Jennifer’s second album, the sound is understated, as lo-fi as it is low-key. The basis is still talented voice, good songwriting and some some great musician friends on back up; it still descends from Dylan and works in bits of roots music, Americana and honest-to-god twang. But this isn’t the same thing bandied about at open mics in coffee shops: the grit at the edges add a legitimacy to these pieces that most folk music loses in the recording process. My favorite is “Let the Wretched Come Home”, a ghost room romp with dashes of dirge and echoes of the Breeders.
Replicating the approach of the late Dave Carter and Tracy Grammer in the latter’s Portland, Oregon kitchen on the classic When I Go album, Minstrel’s Daughter’s impressionist musical territory is a wistful tale of love’s trials.
GODS & NATIONS (Grassroots Records)
The arrival of a major new talent. From the sound of the trenchant folk/blues of Gods & Nations, and the driving, impassioned emotion at the heart of “Patron”, Leonhardt is a gale force to be reckoned with.
Luke Torn, Pop Culture Press
A PASTE RECOMMENDS Indie Album
Top 10 Americana Songs [“Homeland”]
Tupelo Honey Show, KRVM (Eugene OR)
A great, great album.
Martin Vowles, RootsCD.com (UK)
A stirring songwriter, Leonhardt plays blues with vivid modern lyrics and harmonies. For her latest album, she wove the influence of her family of artists and musicians with the impact of Katrina into flowing Americana ballads.
It’s a muggy summer night. Rustic, propulsive rhythms and sinuous melodies surge through the humid air. Such is the feeling you get when listening to Jennifer Leonhardt’s new album, Gods & Nations. Impressive overall, the album comprises a mix of songs evoking folk and blues in ways that sound contemporary, relevant, and more importantly, compelling. Weaved seamlessly through the album is Leonhardt’s voice, a striking and soulful instrument, which deftly varies in tone to suit the architecture of each song. The axis where the most stirring music meets with the most impassioned vocal is “U Wear It Well”, possibly the finest track on the album. Crafting quality songs with versatility in conveying them, Leonhardt proves herself a genuine talent with a promising future.
Donald Gibson – Write On Music
Gods & Nations is as raw and genuine as you’re going to get.
David Baker, 1340 Mag
My favorite singer-songwriter out of Austin.
Crossroads Bob, KYRS-FM Spokane
Jennifer the Lion-hearted sings big songs. They sneak in and swallow me up.
Jesse DeNatale, musician
An up-and-coming unique artist out of Austin.
Austin Music Download
Great songs, great singer, great soul. I spin the record often.
Rough Draft Freeform Radio, WDVR New Jersey
Gods & Nations is packed with the genius I’ve come to expect in her work.
Doug Reed, composer (The Lion King, NYC)
Fantastic, heart-felt album. Leonhardt’s music is totally unique, and totally moving.
Eric Anders, musician
HARD X (Grassroots Records)
Moments of brilliance. Leonhardt has a beautiful voice, a cross between Carly Simon and Allison Krauss. This is minimally produced, a lone acoustic guitar and Jennifer’s vocals are all you get but that gives the album a very intimate feel which works well for her. I really like what I hear. The songs are interesting and thoughtful. This isn’t just a lot of fluff.
JR Oliver – Ear Candy Magazine
LIVE SHOW REVIEWS
“Why this girl is not one of the top acts in the country is beyond me- her singing is like throwing a lit cigarette out a car window, she’s an absolute runaway wildfire. Her band’s live show is some of the hardest, roots-iest rhythm-n-blues-grass ever.”
Don Wolff, music festival talent buyer
“Jennifer Leonhardt knocked our socks off. Easily the best Sandbox concert ever.”
Lucinda Wierenga, Sandbox Inn House Concerts
“Jennifer leads the Whalers with a delivery touching on everyone from Chrissie Hynde to Edie Brickell.”
Dante Dominick, Austin.com
“Her performance is very free and spirited, reflective of time spent with old jazzmen and young dreamers.”
Duggan Flanakin, Flanfire Blogspot
“Jennifer’s a music phenomenon who’s star is rising- very much one of a kind.”
KPAS-TV, Los Angeles
“Jennifer performs with such abandon and passion but still with delicacy and finesse that she mesmerizes while invigorates.”
Pricilla Gilman, author
“The first time I met Jennifer was onstage. We were playing songs from her latest album and cut number five, which is [her cover of Billie Holiday’s] Strange Fruit, jumped out at me. As I plugged in I knew I was in for a deep experience. I’ve checked out her website and earlier music since and if she ever runs for office, she’s got my vote.”
Ritchie Mintz, musician