Carolyn Lee Jones is a jazz singer, a performer who uses her rich and sultry voice to cover tunes from the Great American Songbook. I know, that doesn’t sound incredibly unique–we audiophiles already have plenty of demo tracks featuring the female voice, so why get excited about one more? I started to ask myself the same question once I sat down and started listening to Jones’ new album, Close Your Eyes. What’s so different about Carolyn Lee Jones that we need this album right now?
I started listening to this album last night, and then I started working on a few things. After a few songs, a strange feeling came over me, one of nostalgia. Those feelings became oddly specific, going back to my earliest days when most ’60s pop had a certain grandness to it, coupled with a capriciousness borne of bright colors and carefree, jet-setting spirits. I’m not talking about pop/rock for the kids, but the music made by the beloved stars of the pre-rock generations, ones who were adventurous and tried to sound modern while offering a soothing alternative to the hard stuff that was becoming more and more prevalent. Those darned kids and their rock and roll!
I’m not sure why I keep thinking about my parents and their musical tastes this week, which I mentioned in depth in my Nat King Cole box set review. But I grew up in a modest house just a couple of miles from Disneyland, and my parents still managed to fill the house with music–mostly on the weekends. A singer like Carolyn Lee Jones might have been part of the regular rotation. Our audio system consisted of a Zenith receiver with a built in 8-track player, with tiny little Zenith speakers. It sat on a beautiful mid-century walnut bookcase–real, solid walnut–a bookcase that I loved so much that I currently have it in my listening room just so I can look at it while I’m listening to music. That Zenith box played a lot of music from the ’60s–Burt Bacharach, Johnny Mathis, Floyd Cramer and more, plus copious amounts of easy listening music from KBIG, the “beautiful music” FM station. Why don’t we have those stations anymore? They were corny then, but I think they’d be cool now.
Do you see why the emotional connections to Carolyn Lee Jones were made? She has a smooth and deep voice that suddenly gains steam–not only during the course of the song, but during the course of the album. She gets intense at times. She reminds me a little of Vikki Carr, who used to cry while singing. It was sort of her trademark, and my parents loved her because she cried and because she put so much of herself into every performance. Carolyn Lee Jones is emotional, and she sings like she’s still in the ’60s. She’s unafraid to put it all out there, and she’s unafraid to take you back to a time when we weren’t so concerned about looking like we have it all under control.