Jo Harman has a very vocal and forthright inner circle of supporters and when we let the cat out of the bag that the whole of her gig at Acapela in Cardiff was professionally recorded (by the venue) they ganged up on us to put out the whole performance complete and unedited.
We thought that’s crazy – no one puts a complete, unedited performance out – but put it out we did. The complete concert, the whole darn shooting match; albeit nicely mixed, has been released as a limited edition double CD, with zero ‘fixes’ and totally organic in terms of performance.
What’s more the great Jon Astley, whose previous clients include the likes of The Who, Led Zeppelin, George Harrison, Eric Clapton and others, very generously offered to master it. And if that wasn’t enough, Mark Wilkinson (whose cover arts clients include the likes of Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and Marillion) agreed to do the artwork which includes Mark’s wonderful illustration of Jo herself, front and centre!
The ‘3 Hearts’ reference? Well, Jo was pregnant with the twins at the time of the show. As such, she hadn’t gigged much over preceding months and consequently, was refreshed and in particularly fine form. Unaware the show was being recorded, Jo seemed very relaxed, breathing new life into some well trodden repertoire, joking with the audience throughout, and enjoying the natural reverb and ambience of the chapel venue, The Acapela in Cardiff.
I’ve said it before and it remains true. Playing in Jo Harman’s band is one of the most demanding on the circuit. Her ‘sound’ is timeless and, without being in any way ‘retro’, very much rooted in the sensibilities of late 60’s/early 70’s ‘golden age’ and her musicians have to cover heavy rock, pop-rock, blues-rock, soul which sometimes verges on jazz, gospel, ‘singer-songwriter’ material, heartfelt ballads, and more, with total authenticity and conviction. Moreover, she doesn’t believe in rehearsals, instead believing in people knowing the shape of the song but, other than that, creating in the moment depending on her, and their, mood. If she goes left, they are expected to follow. No song is ever really played the same way twice. Quite deliberately.
In these days where music can often sound mechanical, generic, predictable and samey, it’s refreshing to hear 5 particularly skilled humans perform organically, slight ‘missteps’ and all’, with commitment, sincerity and authenticity and with something to say. Long live that approach, regardless of what maybe – well, inevitably – is heading down the track. Humanity and authenticity is everything as this particular set demonstrates only so clearly.