Barbara Jo Kammer - One Song at a Time
The ten songs on Barbara Jo Kammer’s debut solo release One Song at a Time are definitely lived in. They are never oppressive in their conveyance of life’s experience but, rather, never draw back from facing the reality of the situations they depict. They are accompanied by rich musical arrangements and on target performances that complement the lyric nicely without ever going overboard. The production is quite obviously top notch despite this being a decidedly indie affair or labor of love and it further frames the material on One Song at a Time in the best possible light. The center of it all, however, is certainly Kammer’s voice. Her day job as a music therapist positions her to make a success of this release in a way few other singers could – she truly makes the most of this cathartic moment and delivers one spine-tingling performance after another to make this a must have release.
“I Can See Clearly” is one of the most recognizable tunes on One Song at a Time, but Kammer isn’t interested in a straight cover. She adepts the tune for her particular stylistic purposes and dispatches it with the sort of fluidity that the original performers and covers that followed never dreamed of. It’s to her credit that she’s never interested in simply duplicating someone else’s artistic glories but, instead, shows such interest in claiming a bit of the song as her own alone. A similar experience informs her performance of “Choices”. First popularized by country legend George Jones, this fearlessly blunt appraisal of a life wasted drinking elicits one of Kammer’s most impassioned vocals. She’s careful, however, to never go too far over the top with it and allows the excellent lyric do its poetic best and conveying the despair that only alcoholics and drug addicts, or those affected by such behaviors, can truly experience. “So Good” lightens the mood considerably with its breezy bluegrass pace and the positivity that seems to flow from the lyric. Sandwiching “Choices” between these two tunes gives the first quarter of the album an unique feel that she continues to build on as the album progresses.
“In a Cabin on the Mountain by the Pine” is pure, 100 proof bluegrass with no chaser and she imbues the song with all the pastoral grace that listeners will expect by this point. Songs like this live and die by the singer, but Kammer has an uncanny talent for making the reality of these musical worlds come alive in a vivid way. “The Winning Side” underscores that aforementioned talent in its invocation of the day to day gratitude she now experiences after freeing herself from the damaging effects of substance abuse. This is a song about healing, in some ways, and should prove to be an inspiring listen for many. The album, as a whole, is an inspiring musical ride that never fails to connect. There’s no filler on One Song at a Time and she explores its wide range of emotions like a performer who has made countless albums rather than someone embarking on a solo singing career at the improbable age of sixty two. In the end, age really is just a number.