2021 Blue Elan Records
It was less than a year ago when I was first introduced to the music of Roan Yellowthorn by way of a duet with another Blue Elan Artist, Bob Gentry. I needed to hear more of this beautiful voice. The more I heard, the more I was hooked. The 2020 release of their covers project, Rediscovered, was an eclectic collection of songs that acted as an introduction to the Roan Yellowthorn sound through familiar songs.
Roan Yellowthorn is Vocalist/Songwriter Jackie McLean and her husband, Multi-Instrumentalist Shawn Strack. Together they create a sound, and vibe, that is all their own. At certain times you get a ‘wall of Jackie’ vocal effect and others you can hear her voice hauntingly solo, always pulling the listener in while the music fill the canvas with heavenly keyboards and clever guitar strokes creating a different masterpiece with each new story.
With Another Life, the duo’s third album, serves as an autobiographical therapy as it winds through the ups and downs of McLean’s life. Having recently revealed much about her childhood with an emotionally abusive father, McLean’s lyrics talk of healing, sadness, anger, disappointment, growth and most of all, hope.
The lead-off track, “Acid Trip,” offers our first glimpse into the rollercoaster of McLean’s upbringing and the aftermath that she continues to work through. The production here really stands out. The opening verse starts off with piano, percussion and McLean's voice moving from the distance to the front of the room as the rest of the instrumentation slowly builds into a very catchy pop melody.
The title track is a true standout on this record. “I don’t want to hold you back, I just want you to hold onto me, and never set me free” are some of the most open and loving lyrics on the record and really shows a tender side during what has been an otherwise emotional journey. This is another track that benefits from layers of McLean’s heavenly voice. Strack’s guitar here is truly the sound of two hearts beating as one.
With the song “Unkind” McLean shows the healing process and the positive direction that she continues to travel. She shows her her strength and calls out her tormentor on his cruelty and that she won’t allow it to keep her down. The lyric “I’m not gonna waste my time chasing you, you’d only drag me around” is a direct statement and proclamation. Her vocals on this track are her most confident and it helps drive this powerful song.
The album closes with “Mother.” I’ll admit that on the first listen, I cried when I heard this song. As with all of the songs on Another Life, McLean’s voice is raw and real, but there is an emotion here that stands out. This is Jackie McLean, singing her heart out in one take, in nature with the real world shining through with natural beauty, despite the sadness that ‘mother’ sees and feels.
Other highlights on Another Life include “Little Love,” a tale of a terminated pregnancy and how it continues to affect their lives today, “Vampire” which goes deeper into the psychological effects of the emotional abuse of McLean’s youth, “Bad Things” gives a glimpse at a burning desire set to a terrific groove and the upbeat “Neon.”
With Another Life, Roan Yellowthorn will take you on a journey at the end the listener will likely feel and see so many things in a different light. Perhaps others will hear this album and find some healing of their own.
Another Life is available for pre-sale now, with a May 14, 2021 release date https://www.blueelan.com/store/roan-yellowthorn/
May 3, 2021
Host of Pop Garden Radio