Jessica Lynn at The Junction
Two gigs in Cambridgeshire in five days. This one in the city meaning I’d have to run the gauntlet of the suicidal cyclists and… I shudder, worse still, the electric mopeds. However, we arrived at The Junction without incident on a humid evening that threatened rain.
Tonight, was the first gig on Jessica Lynn’s 2020 UK tour. No, not a typo. Something called Covid got in the way and kept her and her band at home. This was a country music gig, yet there wasn’t a Stetson or pair of cowboy boots to be seen in the audience. But what do I know, I don’t recall ever covering a country gig for Grapevine before.
As the show approached, the band members seemed nervous as they checked and re-checked settings and sorted stuff that probably didn’t need sorting. All except the drummer, he was happy air-drumming to the room’s preshow musak. It was the first gig of the UK tour and they wanted everything to be right. There was a minor technical issue with the sound, and this heightened the nerves. The problem was quickly resolved, and you could see them all breathe a collective sigh, at last it was showtime!
Jessica bounced onto the stage as only American entertainers can – “Lets Get This Party Started” and suddenly we were all clapping overhead in time to the music. It was quite amusing to watch as American showmanship met English reserve head-on on a Wednesday night in Cambridge.
‘After Party’ might seem like an odd song title to have at the beginning of a set but the song placed us firmly in the zone for what was to come. A fast-moving country rock show.
With its natural roots in the American South and Southwest it is unusual that New York born and raised Jessica turned to country music. She blames Shania Twain, and I for one would like to thank Shania.
We got to hear the band’s first top 40 country hit ‘Lets Don’t’, the new single ‘Mixed Signals’ (due for release 15th July), and there were lots more – ‘Worth It’ – a country classic in the making, ‘Somethin’ Good’ and ‘Getaway Car’. But I am drifting into my pet hate, lists.
Then the band left Jessica alone on the stage, the lighting engineer dimmed the lights. What followed was pure magic. Looking strangely nervous, alone with her guitar she sang to each of us in the audience as if no one else was in the room. Mid song she thanked us for coming, she resumed singing. What was that song called? I knew it, I’d heard Jessica sing it before. Hadn’t I? That didn’t make sense, how could I? This woman’s music is new to me. But I have heard Stevie Nicks sing ‘Landslide’ many a time.
Among the original songs, the band also played covers. Actually, no, covers has all the wrong connotations. This was a band playing their interpretation of other songs. Naturally there were some Shania tunes, but also Aretha Franklin’s Respect, possibly the best live rendition of this I have ever heard. A slow burning ‘Johnny B Goode’ allowing the whole band to shine and would put a smile on the face of Chuck Berry.
Who knew Jessica was a drummer? Without missing a beat, mid number she and Matthew swapped places allowing him to take centre stage for an hilarious camp castanet solo. Another first in the patchwork quilt of my musical experiences.
At the end, a standing ovation was unsurprising as we rose as one in appreciation of the show we had been privileged to watch.
Supporting Jessica Lynn was SJ Mortimer singing some of her own country-esque numbers. SJ is probably better known for fronting Americana-rock powerhouse Morganway. (I seen to remember Morganway playing the Grapevine Stage at Ipswich Music Day way back when.)
Accompanied by her guitarist husband Kieran, who is also in Morganway, we were treated to a mix of SJ’s own work and Morganway songs – sort of a 1/3rd Morganway acoustic mix. Singing solo really emphasizes the power and clarity of SJ’s voice. It was also good to see SJ onstage with all her limbs intact! She has had a few accidents lately.
But I’ve not yet mentioned Jessica Lynn’s encore. Looking up into the audience where she knew SJ was sitting, she shouts out:
“Hey, SJ, you like Shania Twain?”
“Duh – YES!” came the reply.
“Well get yourself down here and sing with us, don’t worry, you’ll know the song.”
Not many artists I know would share their encore with the support act. What better song for two powerful female singers to end on “Man, I Feel Like a Woman”.
Throughout the show there was something about this band that I couldn’t put my finger on. They were talented, tight, professional, all the things you’d expect of a touring band. All of them seemed to be having fun doing what they were doing. It wasn’t until Jessica introduced the band members that the light dawned… on backing vocals and keys Mom, Victoria… on bass Dad, Peter… on guitar, husband, Steve… Matthew on percussion was the only non-blood relative but, as we say in our house, family doesn’t have to be confined to relatives.
For whatever reason the turnout at the Junction was small but the band played as if they were on the Pyramid stage at Glastonbury. Treat yourself – go and see one of Jessica’s shows, you will not be disappointed. Below is a link to her tour dates, go see this wonderfully warm human being and her