We don’t have to go anywhere because we are already there. There at the venue. Little snacks, a glass of red wine, laughter, conversation, homely atmosphere. It’s Beth’s living room. It is indeed a very inviting apartment, painted in a friendly warm yellow. There are couches to sit upon, pictures on walls, books on shelves, a piano in the corner and a lava lamp, yet one too cold to make those typical lava lamp bubbles. I came to see Jenny and Kristen Berkel play their first ‘Home Roots’ show. They are two sisters from Ontario, now living in Winnipeg.
When I arrived at Beth’s, I spotted their Instruments right away: a guitar, a keyboard, a glockenspiel, a banjo, and an accordion. My attention was especially caught by the accordion case. Why does it stand upright in the room? Will it be a part of their music? Later, I found out that it is a drum substitute, amazingly creative. Remember, I am talking about a show, which actually takes place in somebody’s living room, during the week on an innocent Tuesday night. Under those circumstances it is important to keep the volume down a little bit. Nobody needs cross neighbors.
Listening to Jenny and Kristen in that environment didn’t feel like an ordinary show, usually seen in bars or pubs. It felt like friends getting to know each other through music. Jenny talked and joked in between her songs, as if she knew every single one of us for a really long time. She invited us to listen to her soul and drew up a very tight atmosphere between storyteller and listener with thousands of little bonding-moments. Her music seems to come from deep within and resonate with us.
Jenny mostly sang songs from her new album Here on a Wire. Imagine how a deep smoky woman-voice, accompanied by a softly played guitar, fills up an entire room. This voice doesn’t pitch much, it stays on one level almost all the time, in almost every single song. Once in a while, not very often, she would give us little treats by switching her voice from deep and smoky to high and clear. It comes unexpected and as a surprise. It makes you softly shiver. The sound and the texture of her voice seems somehow familiar. I wonder, where I heard something like this before. I have the feeling it was Joni Mitchell, who donated a piece of her voice to Jenny.
Jenny’s instrumental work is very similar to her style of singing. There are no big changes, no big instrumental experiments, it basically stays simple. Every now and then, she sweetens her music, while bringing in other instruments. The glockenspiel’s naive ‘pling pling pling’ works its way into the guitar line and fits perfectly into the mysticism of the song ‘Watching your ghost’. Suddenly you are able to hear a rustling sound, a ghost’s nightgown on a windy night. It comes from a cigarette box in Kristen’s hand and a brush she swipes over it.