This week sees the release of ‘Joy’ the second EP from UK singer-songwriter Joanna McGowan. The 20-year old who released her self-titled debut EP in 2012 hails from Kent and has been writing / performing since the tender age of 14. With the arrival of ‘Joy’ big things are starting to happen for this highly talented young lady.
Things get off to a lively start with ‘Show Me How Your Heart Works’ and its jaunty acoustic strumming and gentle, cascading electric guitar on a hugely pleasing chorus. The track introduces Joanna as a vocalist with a warm and delightfully sweet delivery, as well as a songwriter who knows how to craft a memorable hook. Lyrically the track offers up something new and inventive, with Joanna admiring the wondrous outlook on life that her beau has and wanting to ‘learn to love how your heart can love‘. There is a far more serious feel to ‘Take A Chance This Time’, a ballad which has a bigger sound and veers a little more towards pop territory. Credit must be given to Joanna, whose vocals fail to be swamped by the heavier backing and manage to impressively stand out, offering a more mature sound to suit the emotional nature of the subject matter. Whilst the production on the track offers a little too much for our Country-loving ears there is no doubting that it is highly polished and would flourish if it were afforded radio airplay.
The melancholic ‘November’ finds a perfect middle-ground between the differing acoustic / pop sounds of the first two tracks and features a wonderfully almost hypnotic flowing guitar riff. Reflecting a feeling that many of us share and the gloom that we feel during the onset of winter, the lyrics hint that there may be a little more as to why November is such an emotional struggle for the singer. One of my favourite tracks on the EP this also brings the absolute best out of Joanna’s voice, the tenderly recited closing lines to the song are simply gorgeous. Title track ‘Joy’ is not the upbeat fun-time tune that you might expect, instead the singer offers up a serious reflection on the important things in life. Eschewing the fleeting happiness provided by the material things Joanna wisely focuses on family, love & home on a song that builds wonderfully and benefits from some stirring strings. For those who can identify with these values that provide ‘Joy’ the track is surprisingly uplifting despite a slightly downbeat feel, proving just how strong the writing here is.
‘Do You Remember Why You Loved Me’ provides the opportunity to sign off with a big vocal performance on an emotional ballad with a chorus that fully tests the range of Joanna’s voice, thankfully she passes with flying colours nailing those high notes. Clocking in at over five minutes the track meanders ever so slightly but is at its most enjoyable when the singer is in full flow and reflecting on the regret echoed in the lyrics.
The music on ‘Joy’ is difficult to pigeon-hole, which is never a bad thing, and whether it could strictly be defined as Country is debateable. Having said that, what actually represents Country music is constantly under scrutiny these days, so perhaps that is an argument for another day. What this EP does present the listener with is a singer / song-writer of real talent, on both fronts, and a collection of well-crafted songs, which show a maturity belying Joanna’s young age. Featuring highly appealing vocals and engaging lyrics throughout ‘Joy’ stands up incredibly well to repeated listens, if anything offering a little more each time. Hopefully a full album will follow in the future on which it would be wonderful to hear a few more lighter tracks, such as the delightful opener here ‘Show Me How Your Heart Works’, to vary the mood. When it comes, that album could well be something very special indeed. ‘Joy’ is released on 25th August 2014 on Pen To Paper Records.