A Fool Who'll
The first sound you hear on A Fool Who'll, the third album by transcendent Australian songwriter Laura Jean, is something never before heard on a Laura Jean record -- it's the sound of an electric guitar. A Fool Who'll was initially intended to be an acoustic album, much like its acclaimed antecedents Our Swan Song (2006) and Eden Land (2008). Laura moved to a cottage in Victoria's Central Highlands in 2009 to write, but despite composing on her trusty steel string, the songs just didn't sound right. It was then that Laura remembered her pastel yellow guitar. "When I'd pictured myself playing an electric, I'd always imagined I'd go for a Strat or a Telecaster," she says now. "But somehow, the crunch, the almost brattinesss of the SG, seemed to impart something to the songs that they needed. And the ridiculous color was kind of perfect as well." You could say Laura Jean went to the country and came back with a rock record. Opener "So Happy" surprises with its thunderous drums and dueling saxophone solos, but there's no rock posturing here. A Fool Who'll is a dark album, claustrophobic and even menacing at times, but suffused with a fierce beauty that is pure Laura Jean. She thinks of it as the dark twin of her first album. "Our Swan Song is about naivety, while Eden Land is about coming of age," she says. "A Fool Who'll is about realizing we're at the mercy of factors that we can't understand or control, but learning to surrender to that unknowing." A Fool Who'll was recorded with Melbourne engineer Simon Grounds, whose CV spans from '80s Oz classic My Pal by God, to recent records for the likes of Kes Band and Teeth & Tongue, as well as Laura's 2006 debut. They recorded at Head Gap and Dollhouse Studios in Melbourne, but then sent the tracks to Canada to be mixed by the renowned Darryl Neudorf (Neko Case, New Pornographers) and mastered by the equally esteemed Peter J. Moore (Neil Young, Joni Mitchell). Her band is the Laura Jean Trio, featuring longtime collaborators Biddy Connor (viola, piano accordion, keyboard and vocals) and Jen Sholakis (drums, guitars and vocals). Guest spots on the album include a duet on "Spring" with Paddy Mann, aka folk eccentric Grand Salvo, and the gorgeous harmonies of "My Song," sung with Magic Silver White's Jojo Petrina and Monica Sonand. A Fool Who'll is a landmark album for Laura, a reinvention of sorts, but also the starkest and most concentrated expression yet from an artist who grows bolder with each release.