Describing her work as “folk impressionism,” Chattanooga musician Jessamyn Rains is a master at coaxing real heart and emotion from the traditional strains of folk music, a feat which has become more impressive over the past few years since many people now will simply assume that an artist has got that bucolic authenticity if they have an acoustic guitar. But despite the glut of people claiming to understand the curves of its back-roads and the complexity of its rustic history, the genre has always had a few musicians with the talent and awareness to harness its inherent emotional force.
For Rains, folk music is about connecting experience with expression, to conjure and then possess that ethereal spirit that permeates every chord and acoustic shake. Ever since she began writing poetry in high school, she’s been trying to use words and melody to get at the heart of certain emotions and events from her life and use them to approach and explore a broader understanding of the world around her. “I’ve been writing songs for twenty years now, and not much has changed,” Jessamyn says. “I am still looking for the right words, still chasing after that elusive melody.”
On recent single, “Dances with Circles,” she takes the fragility and crystalline beauty of the genre and uses its deceptive strength to provide a suitable platform for her swirling vocals and carefully latticed rhythms. There’s a simplicity to her arrangements which highlights the cinematic grace with which she explores these sounds. The guitar seems to shimmer and echo in her hands, and the subtle percussion that supports the gently sloping melody adds just the right momentum to the song.
The track feels light but not without some emotional heft—it’s a clever balance that Rains accomplishes, with the music and lyrics spinning around each other in a waltz of cause and effect. Her ability to see the depths that folk music has to offer and then reveal that to her audience is something rare and to be treasured. Her voice is determined and buffeted by strong influences, taking less obvious avenues to investigate the inspirations which have so obviously guided her throughout her life.
Joshua Pickard covers local and national music, film and other aspects of pop culture. You can contact him on Facebook, Twitter or by email. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.