Dusted Reviews

Jordan O' Jordan - Not Style, Nor Season, Nor Hard Handed Lesson

today features
reviews charts
labels writers
info donate

Search by Artist

Sign up here to receive weekly updates from Dusted

email address

Recent Reviews

Dusted Reviews

Artist: Jordan O' Jordan

Album: Not Style, Nor Season, Nor Hard Handed Lesson

Label: Columbus Discount

Review date: Mar. 6, 2007

Not Style, Nor Season, Nor Hard Handed Lesson is the first album from Jordan O’ Jordan, the brainchild of Seattleite Jordan Smith. It features a surprisingly large cast of supporting musicians for such a simply arranged set of songs. Smith is billed as Columbus Discount’s first “bona fide folk singer” and fits the bill without any of the predictability that label implies. The album’s arrangements are deliberately spare and the lyrics are a modern, sometimes sardonic take on the traditional folk ballad. Jordan O’ Jordan will no doubt borrow fans from the likes of such prominent new folkies as Joanna Newsom, Jana Hunter and Devandra Banhart, but Smith’s music has less of a psychedelic flavor – more Lucinda Williams and Gillian Welch, if you can believe it. Jordan O’ Jordan’s spare arrangements and plainly phrased but intricate lyrics give Not Style, Nor Season, Nor Hard Handed Lesson a charm all its own.

Smith’s lyrics alone make this an easy recommendation. The songs are jam packed with a mixture of everyday images and references to natural phenomena that work together to give each one depth and charisma. In fact, slowly deciphering each phrase and its relation to the images surrounding it is one of the greatest joys to be had from this album. A pastoral theme is apparent throughout, particularly in “Waverly, Ohio” and “A Town’s Reply to A Banjo,” the former celebrating American pastoralism, utilizing a quote from Marlowe’s The Passionate Shepherd to His Love and a dash of “You are My Sunshine” for good measure, while “A Town’s Reply to A Banjo” analyzes the pastoral ideal by reinterpreting The Nymph’s Reply to the Shepherd in a modern context. There is also a strange sort of pastoralism in “Blame Fashion,” which celebrates a Middle American disgust with highfalutin tastes and trends.

Smith’s vocal delivery is calm and almost chit-chatty, as the dense lyrics leave little room for other embellishment. His voice is nasally with a slight warble, not unpleasant on its own, and the timbre of his vocals is complementary to that of the prominently featured banjo. The two sounds leave a great amount of deliciously empty aural space around them, specifically on “Balloon or Sinking Ship,” the simplest – and arguably the most beautiful – song on the album.

The addition of other instrumentation is a something of mixed blessing. The album closer “Old Foundry Fable” is filled out quite nicely with background vocals and percussion, but the piano on “Hard Handed Lesson” highlights the weaknesses of Smith’s voice and the autoharp on “Blame Fashion” is somewhat jarring. Overall, Jordan O’ Jordan has taken various strains of the folk idiom and mixed them together with a modern taste for irony to create a new, refreshing and challenging presentation of a tired genre.

By Malini Sridharan

Read More

View all articles by Malini Sridharan

Find out more about Columbus Discount

©2002-2011 Dusted Magazine. All Rights Reserved.