The Tauranga launch for Janne Izett's debut album is next weekend. It's been a long journey...
You might have come across Janne in this paper. For a couple of years she wrote a music column under the name Janne “Guitargirl” Izett, shining a well-deserved spotlight on many Bay musicians. Now let's shine that spotlight on her.
Janne first started making music in the Bay like many people, at the Tauranga Acoustic Music Club, around a decade ago. It was there that she started writing songs. Her first recording was a song she wrote in 2011 after the Rena disaster. You can find Bleeding Oil on YouTube where she put it as a fundraiser.
Around that time she also featured as the opening act for Shona Laing at the Historic Village, which offered encouragement and urged her to keep writing songs.
Meanwhile, at the TAMC she met guitarist Paul Lethbridge and they joined forces, playing together for nearly a decade as Tanglewood at rest homes, restaurants, festivals and all over. She also, with the help of bass player Stephen Calvert, hosted a number of Open Mic and Jam Nights, at Brew Bar, the Pizza Library, the Waihi Beach Hotel and more. More recently she's been singing in a duo called Lady Leopard alongside Shirley Ryder.
But the real spur towards recording her songs came in 2017 when Janne's 91-year-old father took his own life after being refused a terminal injection. Janne had been his main caregiver for over 14 years and after his funeral her two sons told her she should get some of her songs recorded. There were over 40 of them by this time.
THE COLOUR FIELD
A young friend, Justin Bradford, had made demo recording of some songs, so Janne had an idea of how she wanted them to sound and, armed with a New Year's resolution, in January 2018 she approached Tim Julian at Welcome Bay's Colour Field Studio.
Now with the support from musician friends she has gathered along the way - guitarist Steve Kopae, the rhythm section of Steve Laffan (drums) and Stephen Calvert (bass), as well as Paul Lethbridge and backing vocalists Karin Hankinson, Mark Schaumann and Shirley Ryder - her album Seasons is ready.
I was genuinely surprised by Seasons. It starts in the folky manner I expected with a slowish tune about the joys of music and writing songs. It shows Janne to have a deep expressive voice that is actually not too far away from that of Shona Laing. She sings well. But the song is slightly heavy going, despite a lovely electric guitar break from Mr Kopae. He does absolutely sterling work throughout, his guitar playing exemplary, whether blazing away or colouring. But after what I find an underwhelming opening song the album really takes off. And it's not the acoustic or folky style that the TAMC connection might suggest but a good solid adult pop-rock collection.
Janne has a very distinct songwriting style: she favours short rhyming couplets - “I watch the dawn breaking / while my heart is aching” - which can be quite effective. She does like rhymes and occasionally overdoses on them. Several songs involve ecological concerns, such as Outer Space, observing Earth from a distance. It's here that things reach peak-rhyme: galaxy, anarchy, hostility, poverty, tranquillity, vanity, humanity, eternity, sanity and more...
But that's dismissive. There is a lot more here than that. Stepping Stones is a very tight and focused acoustic song of affirmation and Torture Me and Undercover, with their eighties pop trappings, are well-written stories of forbidden and toxic love respectively.
And it sounds fantastic! Tim has crafted some unusual and interesting arrangements (and supplies bits of keyboard, bass, guitar, mandolin and percussion) which allows for plenty of variety. I should also give big props to the backing singers, all the musicians and Janne, who has produced a really impressive piece of work, despite my odd nitpicking.
The launch is next Friday (November 27) at the Jam Factory with full band. Tickets are $10 from Events Pronto, things happen at 7pm – or check it out on Spotify, and discover another strong thread in Tauranga's rich musical tapestry.