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Album Review: JOANovARC

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This second, self titled studio album by JOANovARC is set to be released on 31st May.  It was mixed  and mastered by Wayne Proctor and Steve Wright of House Of Tone at Y Dream Studios, North Wales and was recorded, engineered and produced by JOANovARC and Andy Hodgson at Orange Tree Studios.

Sam (Bass & Vocals) and Shelley Walker (Lead guitar & backing vocals) started JOANovARC in 2004 quickly adding drummer Deborah Wildish and  five years later  Laura Ozholl (Rhythm guitar & vocals) completed the line-up.  “Beneath the Sky” EP released in 2011 and the debut album “Ride of Your Life”, released in 2016, established JOANovARC as a band to watch out for.  Touring and building a solid fan base has enabled the band to fund their second studio album through a successful Pledge campaign.  All of the songs are written by  Samantha Walker, Shelley Walker, Deborah Wildish and Laura Ozholl.

The album can be ordered directly from the bands website at https://www.joanovarc.co.uk/

Never shying away from writing songs about what they know and experience means you’re never too far away from a drugs reference.  Lyrically, this album tells the story of the bands personal experiences over the last few years.   There are far reaching  observations on social breakdown, through the minefields of relationships to acute observations on the dangers of running away from home, it seems as though no topic is off limits here.  The writing is personal, strong and obviously comes from the heart, making this a thinking persons album as well as being to tap your toes to.

The opening track Burning offers the bands perspective of the results on their community of the events in London in 2011, which spread across England after police shot a suspect during an intelligence operation. Musically this is the track to kick off the album, strident, anthemic and a great solo towards the closing section.  The track has a lovely vibe, allowing each member of the band to bring their talents to the fore.  The drums keep everyone in synch, adding another depth which, when combined with the tone from the guitars means that you are looking forward to hearing more that  JOANovARC can offer.

Waiting For gives us the insights into dealing with drug addiction and it’s impacts on others, especially those you love.  Considering the subject matter I found this to be strangely upbeat, and reminiscent of The Foo Fighters.   This is another  well crafted accessible song that features as slightly discordant guitar which combines with the almost punky vocals.  A track to get your toes tapping along with the strident drums and funky bass.

Down by the River is probably my favourite track on the album.  This will be the song that the crowd will sing – it’s got a hell of a lot going for it, great rhythm, a  magnificent, full and robust bass line plus a  lovely, perfectly timed guitar solo.  A great 3 and a bit minute song.  The vocals are breathy and ethereal which brings a mesmeric quality to the track, which works well with the stripped back feel.

JOANovARC by Rob Blackham (7)

People Coming Up has more of those references to drug use, all sang over a toe tapping, head nodding beat.  This song just cries out to be played on the radio, it has got that ‘X’ factor feel about it.  Truly influenced by disco, this would feel great played in the 70’s, with a Donna Summer vibe, you cannot help but move along to this track.  I loved the juxtaposition between “all the people coming up” which is really upbeat and the counter of “people coming down”

Take it Out continues the disco rock theme, and there are a lot of very subtle musical references in this song – shades of music from a generation ago and some closer to home on the outro.   The bass and rhythm guitars weave a strident, pulsating beat which the drums reinforce and the riff feels spacy and fluid.  It’s been a hard hitting energetic start to the album and we need a rest…..……… which we get with When we were Young.  It’s not a complicated song, but the message it contains is all the more powerful for it.  Proof that a good melody and good lyrics are what you need.  The  vocals feel effortless and  full of an aching quality the days of yesteryear.

This band love those driving rhythms and Try it on  is a prime example of this.  Laura takes on lead vocals and just helps remind you that this band are all pretty damn good at what they do. Inspired by K T Tunstall it shows just how diverse this band are.  it is crammed full of atmospheric guitar tones, that combine with the slightly off  beat drums and create a soundscape that the vocals fill beautifully.

JOANovARC have been fairly open on their press release on the influences on each of the songs on this album, both subject matter and style.  The next track Jane is inspired by Southern Rock they say, and it has that feel to it with a great guitar solo.  Sung in the third person as the onlooker to a failing relationship.  This is a song that is sure to get you singing along with the chorus and your toes tapping.  The guitars add a buzz to the background before the whole track builds into the vibrant riff.

This Way is back to the blues with a twist of rock. It’s an angry beast of a song but doesn’t stray too far away from the bands ability to hammer down a great riff and put some well fitting harmonies on top.  Powerful from the off, vocals that are replete with snarl and hurt, mix with a deep, aggressive bass line and guitars that add additional attitude as they sneer and bite.

Most albums allow all of the band to show something at some point.  Enter Sam Walker on Slipping Away.  The bass is cranked up for this toe tapper.  It harks back to the days of 3 minute punk/grunge albeit with a twist of today.  A perfect song to have just before the last track on the album, Go Home, a plaintive observation on how home isn’t necessarily where you want to be but where you need to be.  The vocal drip with emotion, moving and soulful.  The tracks moves from almost a whisper into a fuller mix, with a drum beat that is reminiscent of a heart beat.

I have to admit I was expecting a real balls out rock album from JOANovARC but what I got was a more cross genre listening experience and it’s all the better for that. Both in terms of the topics covered, and the really well-crafted songs, this is a really good album.  This band really know how to write a song.  Every track has something going for it and the small nods and homages dotted around all adds to the experience.  Get this album, play it a few times and give it some attention and it will show you just how much depth it has.

JOANovARC are on tour from 18th May to 22nd June so be sure and catch them on the road. they are bound to deliver a great evening of rock and roll that will leave you with the songs buzzing in your head and maybe some food for thought.



Website:  https://www.joanovarc.co.uk/

Facebook:  https://m.facebook.com/joanovarcofficial/

Twitter:  @Joanovarc

Review by Samantha Lamb.

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