I may never have met her but I instinctively like Jeanie Barton, a young singer who represents herself on her CD cover as a rather wholesome 1950’s girl (even a hint of slim-line cigarette and the occasional swearword can’t sully the fresh image.)
The album starts well with ‘I Won’t Ask’. Following the theme, it has an evocative 1950’s style production – with a melodious piano and guitar arrangement and gently brushed percussion. Words and music are by Jeanie who delivers them with a confidently warm and enticing voice. “I won’t ask if you’re faithful/But I’m glad if you are/I’ll just be playful/And not push you too far.” Exactly the right words for the nostalgia-girl image and a dart to the feminist heart.
Inventively she also uses extant tunes, such as the solo by Wardell Gray on ‘The Man I Love’ and the bridge from Duke Ellington’s ‘Solitude’ and gives them her new lyrics. The material traverses a medley of styles and influences (with quite a nod to the Latin); to make the album absolutely spot-on, perhaps a little less versatility might give more unity. Quite a few of the numbers chart young love with its thrills and fears, in an often wincingly honest way, and this rolling narrative of relationships is the theme that homogenises the album.
The accompanists to Jeanie’s lyrical voice are impressively professional – and manifold; the line up seems to change on each track but Chris Berry on guitars is a fixture and does a great job. There are highlights; I really enjoyed ‘I Try Too Hard’. Jeanie wrote the English lyrics to the original ‘Banho Cheiroso’ by Antonio Vieira. Unlike the opening track, it seems to be a great anthem for all those girls who do want ‘to ask’; girls who’d like to provoke a reaction in the commitment-phobic male whilst still hanging on to the idea of romance. It’s cheerful, wry and entertaining and the story was brought alive by the music. ‘Looonatic’, another Jeanie number, is fun and, for me, brought up simultaneous resonances of Andy Williams and Antonio Carlos Jobim; mad.
Jeanie takes risks; her phrasing in the title track ‘Magical Mirror’ is interesting (Joni Mitchell moments maybe?) and the deceptively simple Flapper-ish tune of ‘Don’t Assume That I’m Blue’ takes some technique to pull off; I found myself thinking of a Picasso drawing; to convey a satisfying message the lines may be few and almost naïve – but there needs to be a wealth of experience and technical skill to back up the simplicity.
In ‘Scared of the Keys’ Jeanie’s honest words capture exactly the sense of not daring and wondering where the time went whilst you hesitated. Over all, I’m glad Jeanie didn’t hesitate but dared.