Album review: Lion Side by Jasmine Rae

JR-LoinSide-CoverFINAL3-sRGBThe first definite signal that Jasmine Rae’s new album, Lion Side, was not going to be like her previous albums was her most recent single, ‘Don’t Do it for the Haters’. A response to an episode in Rae’s recent past when she was the target of some online vitriol, it gave new context to the previous single, ‘Green Light’, which sees Rae questioning herself, about many things.

Once the album arrived the total picture became spectacularly clear. The title track is Rae’s announcement of just who she has become in the five years since her last album, Heartbeat. The song sounds deceptively light: it’s not a rock ‘n’ roll roar. But Rae’s intent is in her vocal delivery. She is one of the most powerful singers around, not just because of the strength of her voice but her tone and command. There’s not a nook or cranny of her voice that she’s not in command of – command being different to control. A controlled performance would be one in which Rae gives us not much of herself. The commanding performances on Lion Side are the result of her decision to share a lot of herself, with all the vulnerabilities and pain and doubt that might involve, from what’s on ‘Green Light’ to the contents of the third track, ‘Fraudulent’.

The first four songs seem to be Rae working through the past, and everything she’s learnt from it; after that point her heart bursts wide open – as she telegraphed in ‘Don’t Do it for the Haters’ when she sings that she doesn’t do it for the haters because ‘it’s the love that does it for me’. We go from that song into the beautiful ‘Jessica’, co-written with Lyn Bowtell, who knows her way around a heartbreaking song. This sounds like one kind of song of love and loss and becomes something else: a gentle rebuke. It’s not the only song on the album in which Rae gives us a sleight of hand (or lyric) – ‘Party on the Couch’ has a title that suggests it could be in the established country music party-song tradition, and musically it could fit there, yet really it’s been inspired the fact that Rae was spending a lot of time at home, literally on the couch.

Rae wrote or co-wrote all of the tracks on the album. Seventh track ‘Love Is’ is hers alone and was begun years ago. It is devastating and memorable, as is the tenth and last track, ‘Carrying the Flame’, a tribute to a departed mentor. The answer to ‘Green Light’ comes in track eight, ‘Right Now’, in which Rae has no qualms issuing the recommendation to ‘just do whatever makes you feel better’ – no judgements about what that may be. Because perhaps, finally, Rae has stopped judging herself.

In Rae’s decision to let love guide her work and her actions, she has offered fans a gift: an extraordinary album which is infused with love and the prices we can pay for it – grief, confusion, loneliness, despair. In the end, though, the message is that it’s worth it. Rae emerges on this album as the heroine we didn’t know we needed, not because she set out to be but because she didn’t. She set out to create songs that people would love. She has achieved that, and so much more.

Lion Side is out now through ABC Music/Universal Music Australia.

Signed albums available at www.jasminerae.com

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