San Francisco songstress Jessica Pratt is blowing up. She's on fire. She's on fire and blowing up. Since her debut album of lush, hand-picked folk melodies dropped a just few months ago demand for Jessica's debut, simply titled JP, has become as difficult to keep up with as the multitude of glowing reviews surfacing all over the interwebs lauding Ms. Pratt's ability to make everyone mistake her bewitching, home-brewed folkways for that of retro private press obscurities. If you think this isn't going to be yet another reverent review let me get right to the point: believe the hype.
Like so many jewels that cannot stay buried in the deep forever, Jessica Pratt has risen above the morass of the San Francisco music scene like a diamond atoll emerging from an ocean of acts drowning in their own in reverb, reciprocity, and relative "esoteric" influences. A momentous feat for any solo musician, let alone any woman, struggling just to tread water in the threadbare, barely-there music industry these days.
That Tim (White Fence) Presley launched his label Birth Records just to put Ms. Pratt's record out speaks to the immediacy of her music. It's a sound that cannot help but conjure familiar feelings upon first listen (for any vinyl junkie anyway), and the comparisons are flying. Presley himself has oft been quoted as saying she brings to mind "Stevie Nicks singing over David Crosby demos" and others have pointed to the way in which her vocal stylings bait and switch Nicks, Joanna Newsom, and Karen Dalton among many others. While we're at it, I'd like suggest the inclusion of Dolly Parton to pinch hit in this approximation game as the fluttery trails Pratt punctuates her lyrical lines with in songs like "Hollywood" and "Half Twain the Jesse" resemble Dolly's vocal filigree.
I have to admit, however, I find all these comparisons tacky and terribly trapped-in-the-90's buzzbin in the sense that any woman that ever flaunted a decidedly "unique" voice back then was appraised by nineties alterna-trinity: Björk/Tori Amos/P.J. Harvey. For me, it's offensive to struggle to assay the impression of a fresh voice with those we already know and love because burdens the emerging artist with the luster, or shadow, of an others' work. While I cannot deny the correlation of Jessica Pratt's magic to that Newsom or any other would-be contemporary, it should be noted that as far as patently "unique" voices go s. Pratt's is just about as unequivocal as they come.
Then there are the songs themselves.
Culled from recordings made over the past five years (which, I hope, means the songs that comprise JP are likely only a small sample of Pratt's acoustic drifts) Ms. Pratt's songwriting is neither cryptic or contrived offering instead informal delivery of personal meanderings whether they seemingly sprung from wakefulness ("Midnight Wheels") or the reflecting upon the changes that come of a passage of time ("Bushel Hyde"). Plus, it's difficult to put into words the comfort that lives within the sound of a track opening up with the punch and click of analogue tape gently purring into "record" mode as can be heard on Side A's "Mountan'r Lower". Taken all together, this record is an intensely satisfying listen through and through (and over and over again - I haven't taken this off the turntable for more than a half-day since I copped my copy back in October) JP will no doubt continue to fly off the shelves here at Amoeba Music just as sure as the cult of Pratt enthusiasts continue to find themselves rapt, downing the kool-aid at first, and with each subsequent, listen.
As of this morning Birth Records announced the arrival of the second pressing and the impending fulfillment of back orders so if you've been waiting to get your paws on some tangible JP -- hang in there kittens! The LP comes packaged with a lovely insert featuring a collage made by Ms. Pratt herself with a digital download of the full album included so you can roam these streets of hers with her, you know, if you're into that kind of thing.