Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Joanne Hogg - Uncountable Stars. Review by Kirk

Artist: Joanne Hogg
Release: August 2014

Quick Spin:   I keep rewriting this little quick spin, cause I want to get it right.  What can I say?  This treasure of an album by UK vocalist Joanne Hogg is so utterly tender and lovely and good … even at times vivacious, that I feel like a portion heaven has been downloaded into my heart.   Were it in my means, I would buy this disk for everyone I love, and whom I would want to know the extravagant love of the Eternal Groom.  I am swooning within.


Do you ever open an album (or a trifold CD) literally jittery with excitement, because the PACKAGING  itself is just so lovely.  I am not sure how mere cover-art did it, but the before I ever heard a sound I knew that something here is -- or will be  -- extra magical.  (I don't mean to scare anyone with the ‘magic” word… I should say extra-ordinary glory spangled!)

First,  a Kingfisher… in suggested spray, which in turn, looks like the stars echoed in the album title:  Uncountable Stars.

Then I open the fold and spy the title poem.

Gazing Up at
Uncountable Stars
Unimaginable Glory
Unfathomable Mercy
Unconditional Love
Unhindered Freedom
Uncontainable Joy
Undeserved Favor
I am
Undone under the Unfailing
Arms of God

There’s is something in those very words that warms my heart like a love letter… I haven’t even heard a note, and I am already primed for rainbows round the throne room. 

As is, I own the larger body of Joanne Hogg’s works, most in her association with the band Iona.  I also own a couple of her solo works, so I kind of know what to expect when she sings with her band, or how her presentation changes when she sings solo…I am expecting something, minor, sober, elegant, refined and pensive…decidedly acoustic, build on a foundation of classical piano.

I start the disk…

What’s this?  
Utter surprise.

Wonked out.


This is working.
Really really working.

Sheer extra-ordinary glory saturated sounds… but with a MUCH different feel than anything I have heard sculpted by Joanne’s gifted vocal chords.

The music has all the sophistication and beauty I would expect, but it is charged.  Like  -- with electricity.  (Literally and Metaphorically).   I am hearing passion …  and play, Beauty with a capital B… even something bold and strident.   Can we use the world Amorous?   I am not sure I will get the right string of adjectives, because the moods and vocal approaches from song to song vary substantially, and  I would have to make a list for each song.

Ps.  I am writing this live, even as I listen.  I just hit track 8, Mountain of Debris… and I am stunned.   My mind is racing with all kinds of visual images.  Surreal images, dark and swirling… I want to use this track for a time lapse… I see images of deserts and death… and healing and things which are broken coming together… but mostly., there is one big idea hidden here, and behind these many tunes.

I am hearing in each song, saturating this disk… the extravagant mercy of God.


Not sure I want to do a song by song evaluation, and I am hoping there are places you can go to sample this music if you are unfamiliar.

But let me cut to the chase.

This album offers things I have never heard before. (Sometimes in Joanne, sometimes ever)

First... New vocal treatments, sometimes brassy or charming... the softness is still here, but with all kinds of new colors in this collage.

Another reviewer compared the tilt in sound on a few tracks to something like "Florence and the Machine."  I hear that edge, but I hear too, billow clouds.. and a track the feels almost Indian) 

The poetry is earth bound (anchored in creation) but fused with heaven too.

The writing is first rate.  transparent, with flourishes of concrete detail.

The styles are genre defying, ranging from jazzy ballads to ambient pop to stage-musical  (Most of the tunes are asymmetrical, (meaning they don't follow a traditional verse chorus verse chorus style.)

I am hearing a freedom of expression I have never heard in Joanne before.  

I feel all glowy inside. 

There are some things (in the world in general) which are powerful, but not good.  This album is potent, amorous, sensory … and baptized in goodness.

I feel held.

This may be the best album in the history of the world.   (Make that in the top 20 anyway.)


Not much of a review.  But you get the picture.

Ps.  Now hearing second to last track.  Lay down.   Oh Oh my.  This is silky gorgeous.   I suspect it may just be a "regular love song"  but I hear in it kind a double edged application.  I have in my life heard many songs sung to Jesus.   And I have heard many more love songs sung by men and women to each other.

Now I have heard a song that sounds like Jesus singing to me.  (No Gender confusion here. I hear Joanne as the Male, and me  -- the male --  as the bride.)  I am wearing white, and we have just been married and Jesus is taking me on a picnic.   (Okay, that sounded weird….)

Now on about my fifth listen.  Hearing new things each time.   There is a darker hue to some of these songs than I heard in the initial listen.   New impression... A soul, waking out of heavy season of soul, into glorious light and freshness.

Ps. Ps.  I was going to say more about the writing, but I have already loaned out my disk.

Itunes: for sampling.. though best to order the disk from Jo directly.

1 comment:

  1. "This may be the best album in the history of the world. "
    YES :-)