"Giving It Up" and "Times Are Hard" are by no means the only two good songs on Lenora Jaye's new album, The Story, an album with a lot to like. But I found both of these songs compelling for similar, but somewhat hidden reasons: On the surface, the two tunes have nothing in common. The former tells the story of a woman who finds a man whose love allows her to tear down the wall erected after too many failed relationships. "Times Are Hard," is among a group of songs inspired by what is known as the Great Recession, and is about the search for that kernel of hope amid stories of layoffs, penny pinching and war drums beating in distant lands. The struggle to avoid being overcome by fear, cynicism and bitterness connects both songs. The fact that a common thread can connect two songs that appear to be so dissimilar on the surface is one of the essences of good songwriting, so Jaye (who penned the lyric and the melody) deserves kudos.
The Story's virtues are manifest whether Jaye is rhapsodizing about how she connects with her lover on the mid-tempo jam "So Right," or letting Mr. Wrong know the ways in which his big talk doesn't quite measure up on "You're Not the One." On both tracks, Jaye's soprano moves from sweet and enraptured to sassy and unsatisfied. Some of Jaye's best work on The Story can be heard on the album's ballads. Jaye gives her listeners a story of a woman who wages a losing battle of her emotions when she sees an old flame on the soul/jazz ballad "Taking Over," and she becomes the soulful seductress on the bedroom jam "Do You Wanna."
Jaye takes a conversational and intimate tone on "Remember When (Old Skool Luv)." The vocalist again finds herself talking to an old flame. This time, she conjures up memories and images from the past in hopes that there is enough of a flame left to reignite a future relationship. The song combines those youthful memories with the kind adult sentimentalism that is tinged with the knowledge that walking away is not without risks. "Will You Love Me The Same," approaches the listener from the opposite side of the street. Jaye steps away from love's reverie to ask her lover if he's ready for everything love entails: "even when the nights grow cold/even when the days grow old/even when the sun don't shine/will you love me the same way."
Jaye tells many stories on the album The Story. Her ability to be a realistic, mature and eloquent musical storyteller makes The Story a solid piece of adult soul.
By Howard Dukes