Blues Blast Magazine (2018)

A popular vocalist and acoustic guitar player in both Boulder, Colo., where she’s based, and Key West, Fla., which she considers her second home, Jenn Cleary is backed by a full band here as she delivers a collection of the most popular songs she covers in live performance.

Her most recent album, 2010’s Back To The Wheel, was a finalist in the Colorado Blues Society’s self-produced CD competition. A veteran of several European tours, she’s a frequent performer at festivals, including Sundance and Telluride, where she’s placed highly in solo acoustic competitions, mixing blues, rock and a touch of folk. She’s also produced and hosted the TV show Behind The Song.

Cleary’s backed here by John McVey, a Nashville veteran who accompanies her on lap steel, electric guitar, bass and backing vocals. He recorded, engineered and produced this disc at Cinder Sound Studio in Longmont, Colo. They’re joined by Mad Dog Friedman, the harmonica player who works regularly with Jenn, as well as Eric Moon on grand piano and B3 organ and Christian Teele on drums. They’re augmented by Brad Morse, who provides upright bass on three cuts, and Kate Hope and Mark Oblinger, who deliver backing vocals.

Blues Full Of Heart opens with a take of “Peace Of Mind,” a tune written in the ‘60s by Jim Messina while still a member of the band Poco prior to his lengthy partnership with Kenny Loggins. According to the notes accompanying this CD, this is the first time anyone other than Messina has recorded it. Penned by Stephen Stills during his time with Buffalo Springfield, “For What It’s Worth” is up next, followed by “Ain’t Nobody’s Business,” a tune that debuted in 1922 and was first delivered by Anna Meyers.

A pleasant alto with limited vocal range and solid skills on the six-string, Jenn takes on Warren Haynes’ familiar “Soulshine” next, stripping it of his incendiary guitar licks while reinventing it as a slow, sweet ballad. The album continues with takes of Janis Joplin’s “Turtle Blues,” John Prine’s “Angel From Montgomery,” Dusty Springfield’s “Son Of A Preacher Man” and Louis Armstrong’s “What A Wonderful World” before finishing with Kris Kristofferson’s “Me And Bobby McGee,” another monster Joplin hit.

Available as both a disc and download from CDBaby, Blues Full Of Heart is an enjoyable release. The songs here and their arrangements are a bit too familiar. Let’s hope Cleary spices things up by adding her own material to the mix on her next release.

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