Have One on Me
Feb 24, 2010 Web Exclusive
A Joanna Newsom song is impossible to describe. Not Newsom's voice, of course, which conjures up adjectives like "gossamer" and "sprightly," or her harp, which is an instrument she pretty much lays sole claim to in 21st-century pop music, but her songs themselves, the way they bend back on themselves and wander away. Newsom makes one believe in impossibilities, like Peter Pan or The X-Files.
It's been over three years since Newsom's wondrous Ys, but on Have One on Me, she gives us not just one, but three discs of new material. Not a whole lot has changed, though Newsom manages a country tinge to the title track. Country in this venue sounds more like Oklahoma! than Johnny Cash. Clocking in at 11 minutes, "Have One on Me" goes through so many shifts and changes, it's difficult to get a handle on it, but the result is thrilling rather than frustrating.
Despite the friendly titles of some of the tracks, ("In California," "Ribbon Bows") things take a more somber turn as Newsom continues on her way. As Newsom sings, "But the darkness has fallen so fast/It seems like some kind of mistake." Stripped for much of the time of the horns and orchestral adornment of the first disc, Newsom turns a celebration into a confessional.
Just when it seems Newsom couldn't possibly have any more rabbits in her hat, the third disc contains some gospel flourishes that concentrate her voice in a whole new way, bending down low to grab some bit of soul. The third disc also contains the mannered, medieval love song "Kingfisher." Of the three discs, it's the bravest, but the one requiring the most getting used to.
Newsom has never been one of those artists who leave the listener wanting more, knowing that there's more to give. The massive amount of material contained in Have One on Me will take a long time to digest. Perhaps as long as it takes Newsom to produce another album. (www.dragcity.com/artists/joanna-newsom)
Author rating: 9/10
Average reader rating: 8/10