After listening to Joanna Newsom‘s first album since 2006’s Ys, I can honestly say I will never listen to it all the way through again. That’s not to say it isn’t an amazing, original work of art, but at a run-time of over 2 hours, it’s just not something I will have the patience for again. Have One On Me is like a good novel, you read it once and thoroughly enjoy it, but don’t have any reason to ever read it again.
Joanna is a rare talent in modern music. The 28-year old from the small town of Nevada City, CA is a Celtic and pedal harpist and singer-songwriter. She looks a little like a an elf (and I don’t mean that in a bad way, she is very cute), she is less than half the size of the harp she plays and she is the cousin of San Francisco mayor, Gavin Newsom. Her music has been hailed by critics left and right and Björk chose her as the opener for her last tour. She has worked with Will Oldam, Devendra Banhart and Bill Callahan, as well as had her songs covered by Owen Pallet and M. Ward.
When I first heard Joanna, I thought it was a joke. She sounded like an 80 year old women singing about “the meadowlark and the chim-choo-ree”. I really like folk music, but this was just too much for me. I kept coming back to it though. Every time I heard somebody talk about how amazing she was or read another 5 star review, I went back. And slowly I began to get it. This was something different. This was a girl taking chances. And after the 6th or 7th listen to Ys I was a believer. Then I saw her open for Björk; watching those little hands move at lightning speed across that harp was mind-blowing. I had become a fan. I had even become a fan of that voice…that voice that started to sound like a little girl instead of an old lady…but never sounding like the voice that should be coming out of the person on stage.
So, it’s been 4 years since her last full length album. She’s been modeling, doing commercials and popping up in the indie tabloids here and there. It seems she’s also been writing music. This is a triple-CD release. It’s a long album. It’s filled with her usually indie folk with lots of harp, piano and sprawling tales of life, love and loses. It’s a journey worth taking…even if it’s just once.