A review for The Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
By Karen Robinson
There's no warning label on this CD. Maybe there should be: "Warning- contents could be emotionally traumatic to sensitive listeners." In direct opposition to many of her lyrics, Jano plays a gentle and melodic acoustic guitar to accompany these wrenching tales of misery. With a voice eerily similar to a raw, throaty Matraca Berg, CERTAIN THINGS is sung with naked emotion. Accompanied only by that deceptively sweet guitar, CERTAIN THINGS hits emotional depths you might not be ready, or able, to swim out of.
CERTAIN THINGS could be likened to major psychotherapy with acoustic guitar accompaniment. The psychotic ride begins on a downhill slant with the fast paced "Reflections", a look at her life now and past. Then, chugging uphill, comparing life to television, is the softly sung "On My T.V." accompanied by a gently strummed guitar. Therapy now moves to an exploration of childhood hopes in "All My Heroes" using dead drug addicts and bikers for role models. With a quick curve, "T's and Blues", has a nice, bluesy guitar backing the 'fried lullaby' of a confused young girl. A sudden dive comes next with "Turn on My Psychopath", a dirge about a neglected two-year-old child who learns to survive in silent obedience.
The psycho-path changes gear with a ballad, "Menominee Falls", another reflective song about life and the variety of people in the world. A hard hit acoustic guitar opens the next song, "Cowboy Mouth", imparting the tale of a passionate and violent affair with a cowboy. The "Civic Center!" explores the sameness of us all from the viewpoint of a homeless person. The "11th Commandant" is a child abuse nightmare with a guitar backup. And yet, hope is still there.
Jano manages to find the good in others with "Angels in the Snow", but then questions the existence of earth and its inhabitants on "Why Did I Come to This Planet?", almost a stream of consciousness in its delivery. Romantic oblivion exists in "Loves Me Anyway" followed by a steady guitar opening "Certain Things", a song of earthquakes and breakups. "This Is It" is the successful culmination of a life of dreams, followed by "Sponsor's Lullaby". It's lovely finger-picked guitar backs a lovelorn and worn Jano addressing a broken relationship. But we're not left in limbo. Before rolling to a stop, Jano takes us back to safety with "Big Rock", a slow paced ballad of storms, fate, roots, and home.
After the initial shock passed, my admiration for Jano's skill in presenting such emotive material was assuredly increased. Given the passion she can arouse with such negative subjects, her potential with positive ones can only be unlimited. CERTAIN THINGS is definitely a conversation piece and Jano's next one can only surpass it. Before, during, and after therapy, Jano is certainly a voice to be listened to.
[Edited by Cynthia A. Harney]
[Publisher's Note: This album reminded me of a movie that I saw nearly
twenty years ago called The Day of the Locus. It was the most disturbing
movie I've ever seen. The film finally made its way to cable this month;
the first time I've heard of it in nearly two decades. Both the movie and
Jano's CD rocked me back on my heals. They were both repulsive - they were
both equally brilliant in the portral of thier subjects. While Certain
Things is disturbing, it is an exceptional work that deserves attention.