Jordin Baas: A Tree Firmly Planted CD Review of ‘Songs by a Human and a Tree’

Jordin_tree_front_coverBY Jean Detjen

Mile of Music (MoM) standout performer Jordin Baas – to refer to her as a “darling” would ring too saccharin – consistently stuns listeners with an artistic depth that matures with each phase of the moon. Witty and wry, vulnerable yet strong, humble in her magnificence, Baas is a singer-songwriter who continuously astounds with her depth as a singer-songwriter.

Fan Jim Olski who was blown away by Jordin Baas at MoM last year is spot on with his observation: “So what makes Jordin Baas stand out? It would take Jordin Baas to write a phrase good enough to tell how good her lyrics are.”

While unassuming and gentle upon first impression, Baas is a force to be reckoned with. As she gathers strength, so does the listener right alongside her. Roots firmly planted, her branches sway and bend along with the raw emotions perched fearlessly upon them. But they do not break. Rather, they grow stronger with every vibration, fed and watered with the earth’s simple yet profound elements to which homage is paid in her latest work.

While the potential of her artistic journey is still an evolution in process, savoring it in the moment is the best way to appreciate Baas’s ethereal offerings. With her latest 12-track release Songs By a Human and a Tree, Baas grows legs with a notably experimental journey. Laced with appealing quirkiness, her sweet vocal quality carries more than just a hint of irony. Rolling out cascading, soulful notes of hopeful melancholy with intelligent, thoughtful lyrics, the artist doesn’t disappoint with her newest project.

Gorgeous and sensual, her opening track Gateways lulls you in with its elegant guitar work, softly undulating lead vocals, and mystically resonating harmonies. You get the feeling you’re about to be led somewhere you definitely want to go. Earthy and sensuous, the poetic siren calling seems to come from an ambient hilltop with ancient echoes.

Steeped in sing-a-long catchiness, I Will Not (make a sound) builds a playful crescendo with wide-ranging vocals and metaphorical lyrics taking center stage. Mischievous harmonica drizzle brings things down to earth while certainly not succumbing to shushing from anyone. Seamless acoustic guitar accompaniment accentuates without overshadowing Baas’s distinctive voice patterning.

Dream quality dissonance in the collaborative Meta 6 + Duality in 3 is an unexpected experimental jazz shoot in the eclectic mix. The piece features saxophonist Stephen Cooper from Wifee and the Huzz Band and The Jazz Orgy. Cooper co-wrote the track with Barett Tasky and Baas during “Love on Holiday,” an annual song-quest love-fest held each February at the Holiday Music Motel in Sturgeon Bay. Hats fittingly tipped, the week-long collaborative songwriting marathon which was the backdrop for the composition is touted as “a live musical valentine serenading the season’s unholy threesome of Adoration, Angst, and Ambivalence.” If she were here to observe, a boozily dancing Peggy Lee would be asking, “Is that all there is?”

Raucous crowd favorite Freedom Song (Freak) makes you want to clap and cheer to living authentically and being comfortably free in your own skin. Glory, Hallelujah! Is Woody Guthrie in the room? Baas is getting to know who she is and hopefully we are mindfully following suit in shared vulnerability and celebration.

Photo by DeWook Photography

Photo by DeWook Photography

Listen to a live performance of Freedom Song here (audio courtesy of Todd Van Hammond)

Stunningly melodic Sand is a raw standout, taking the listener to a mystical underground bubbling with questions lyrically pulled from deep within. Baas’s impressive vocal range is evident here in full brilliance. May we approach the shore together and feel every grain of sand between our toes!

Baas shows her moxy with Dragon Slay where she takes a stab at playing her own trumpet licks. “I wanted to hire someone but it was hard finding people to commit in a short period of time, so I bought a cheap student trumpet, learned the notes I needed for the song, and recorded it the next day.” I’d trust her to slay dragons for me any day.

Willpower attests to the difficulty of giving up things we know aren’t good for us. It’s a vulnerable song infused with empathy, compassion and shared humanity. Baas gets us as she delves into her own weaknesses. There’s no room for anger or judgment here; the crack exposed allows just enough light in.

I AM (and you are too) is a full and expansive story-esque close that takes you on softly rippling instrumental waves of meditation. The offerings are long and rich, meant to be languidly savored. May we all be free… May we all BE…

Kudos to additional album collaborators whose understated artistry rounds out the musical journey to sublime perfection:

– Barett Tasky on trombone, a multi-talented, multi-instrumentalist who Baas says she’s “lucky to have met and worked with.”

– Drummer Owen Strombeck who traditionally plays hard rock. “He did a great job stylistically toning down for Sand and Don’t Take Your Love.

– Violinist Amanda Jo (violinist) who also played cello on this record. Notes Baas, “She did a great job reading my sloppy handwritten scores and playing an unfamiliar instrument.”

Jordin Baas is a young alternative folk/pop artist from Milwaukee Wisconsin. She has drawn recognition for her lyrical content with insight well beyond her years and melodies that the listener cannot help but carry away with them. Gaining recognition with a momentum that is unstoppable, She is breaching the boundaries of her native Wisconsin, which can’t contain her any longer.

Baas was born in 1990 in Madison, WI and has been a singer/songwriter since age 14. Songs include catchy feel-good tunes and tones with slightly sarcastic “emotional” lyrics. Some songs have the acoustic songwriter feel, others are electronic. 

Featured instruments include guitar, harmonica and piano with a dash of tambourine and other random percussion instruments. 
Keep up (if you can) with Jordin Baas via these links:
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