IDA JO & THE MOVEMENT – Hum
You can purchase this recording here.
With seven albums under her own name in seven years, Ida Jo has established herself as one of the most consistent and prolific artists in Madison. Few have matched her sheer longevity and output which also includes a solid recording with Bello. The formula hasn’t changed a whole lot over time and like her excellent 2015 release Guardian of Being, there is more heft in the instrumentation, particularly in the addition of drums and instrumental layers. The songs are never overdeveloped, never meander into monotony even if the vibe is meditative. Pluck a song from a list that’s becoming quite lengthy and use it as a personal mantra for a day. Given her deep commitment to yoga – a burgeoning master of the Ghosh lineage, an instructor and the co-author of a practice manual on the art, this is absolutely the intent. A deep dive into the lyrical content brings insight.
Her partner in life, yoga, writing and music, Scott Lamps, is just as integral to all of these undertakings and the two are nothing if not a dynamic duo, Lamps handling many of the technical aspects, providing arrangements and instrumental atmosphere to Ida Jo’s creations. He never overpowers her, his additions are graceful and effective. Lamps plays several instruments allowing the pair to be efficient and productive.
Though the halo around them projects love and purposeful living, there is often pain and a dark undercurrent to Ida Jo’s lyrics, a mournfulness that reflects the balance of life, the yin and the yang, while being utterly fearless in bringing these elements to the surface. The arrangements complement this resulting in an expression of life’s beauty, equal parts light and darkness but resolutely redeeming. The receptive mind will find inspiration.
A limited edition version of Hum arrived in a neatly handtied box containing not only the CD but an assortment of paper art, pictures of handwritten lyrics, a download card and a nice exposition on the creation and impetus behind Hum’s nine tracks. Significantly, this album is credited to Ida Jo & the Movement, having named her now solid backing musicians, Lamps and drummer Dane Crozier.
Hum’s songs are lighter than previous Ida Jo recordings as the leadoff track implores: “Sing with me… / when singing was just for fun.” One of the few songs they’ve recorded that exceeds five minutes, it’s also spare in lyrics with a repeated refrain with some variation. Only “Coldest, Darkest Time,” an older song held out until it was reworked for Hum, embodies some of the seriousness of earlier works.
One of the more interesting tracks is Lamps’ “I Found You.” Sounding simple on its surface it’s actually a complex chord progression with a deviating meter by way of shifting the time signature to follow the lyrical cadence. It began as an electronic experiment by Lamps and though it was adapted to fit in with the rest of the songs on Hum, it retains some of that electronic flavor. As expected, Ida Jo’s violin is resonant and tasteful especially in a song like this where the instrument is layered with bowed notes, plucking and her signature chopping technique.
“Give it Your Soul” is notable for the freedom that Ida Jo allows in her vocal performance as she points out in the liner notes. She finds release singing on Lamps’ compositions as it distances her from the heaviness that pervades many of her own compositions and here she lets her voice soar. It’s no secret that she is drawn to the music of the Band and this one recalls that seminal group right from the drum fill that kicks the song off. The album closes with an earlier, alternate version of the song sans drums but also much of the pure power of the vocal that propels the final version.
The exquisite “I’ll Find a River” is Hum’s crowning achievement encapsulating all the elements that make this group what it is. Almost gospel in its purity and delivered with Nashville flair, it captures all the ingredients. Ida Jo’s voice is strong but yet breathy, with a somberness and that sense of searching that’s so central to her music. “Baby Lay Down” is a close second, a dreamy vocal exercise featuring gorgeous harmonies, ample reverb and an extended instrumental build, something a bit different for them.
Hum can be seen as an opportunity for Ida Jo and Lamps to shift direction but the fundamental elements that make them who they are as people and musicians ultimately finds its way through. Guardian of the Soul was an artistic high point for them and no doubt a bit difficult to follow. Life is heavy; in fact, it’s never been heavier, at least in this country. We turn to music for affirmation and reaffirmation, especially in times of strife and challenge. This is at the root of the popularity of Ida Jo and Lamps’ music. May they go forward and let freedom ring.