Carnival of Hopes
Reviewed by: Jane Roser
Sorry looks back, worry looks around, faith looks up.
Singer-songwriter Jane Kramer’s sophomore solo album Carnival of Hopes pays respect to her mountain roots while delving into themes of loss, doubt and failures while keeping the faith that there is a light of hope in the distance.
Kramer was one-third of the Asheville, North Carolina trio Barrel House Mamas and honed her craft performing Appalachian ballads and Americana music in the Blue Ridge Mountains before setting off on her own path as a solo artist with 2013’s Break & Bloom. Produced and engineered by Adam Johnson of Sound Lab Studios (Alison Krauss, Yo Yo Ma), Carnival of Hopes features an impressive list of backing musicians including guest fiddler Nicky Sanders (Steep Canyon Rangers), JP Furnas (Empire Strikes Brass) and Frankin Keel (Sirius B).
Opening track “Half Way Gone” neatly bookends with final track “My Dusty Wings” with their rollicking, flirty fiddle accompaniment and joyful lyrics; you can tell Kramer is having fun singing these songs and that feeling endearingly transcends to the listener. Kramer’s vocals are soulful and textured allowing for a range of emotions to illustrate each beautifully poetic song.
“Truth Tellin’ Eyes” was a tune that really stood out for me, partly because I’m a big fan of Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Kramer sings hauntingly of letting a wild thing free: “when they’re ready to catch the wind, you gotta let them go” (in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Holly Golightly tells her husband “you musn’t give your heart to a wild thing” because they’ll fly away). It’s a theme I think more and more independent-minded women gravitate towards, but one that is also lonely and drenched in self-doubt.
Steeped in tradition, while showcasing her talent for creative, personable songwriting, Kramer’s songs are poetic and illustrative; speaking of ruin and heartache, but also reminding us that beneath the scars, there is hope, faith and ultimately redemption.