The album opens with “I Will Be Glad,” which begins with a steady, simple beat and some beautiful work on guitar setting the tone before Jess Jocoy’s voice comes in. Hers is a gorgeous voice that here is warm but with a touch of melancholy within, and there are moments when her voice soars, while still remaining grounded. Basically, it feels honest, real. “In the end when the sunshine turns to rust/And my body returns to the dust.” But it is these lines that I especially latch onto: “In the end when the wind is at our back/There’ll be no thought of what we lack/Only joy for days we’ve been given/There will be joy, there will be joy.” In addition, Lydia Luce provides some passionate work on strings. This is a beautiful opening number about loss and the strength of family. That’s followed by “The One I’m Living For.” This track eases in with some soft strumming on guitar, supporting Jess Jocoy’s vocals, which have an intimate quality at the start. There is something comforting in the connection she creates between herself and us, on this journey we are all on together. “It turns out I had been sleeping/Drifting like a ghost through my own dreams/Someone must have known what it was I was missing/‘Cause I woke up one day and you were there.”
From time to time I see something on the news about a town that is all but dead, its population having moved off, following jobs or dreams or who knows what. There is something inherently sad about these stories, and there are always a few people left behind to be interviewed about how everything has changed. I wonder about those last people, how long they’ll hold out, and how they’ll manage without support. In “Living In A Dying Town,” Jess Jocoy takes us into that situation, and we get the perspective of someone who remains, at least for now. “Found out I’m living in a dying down/It’s like watching the sun set on the long, long day/People that you grow up knowing, they ain’t around anymore/You come to find out time really does slip away.” And these lines will strike a chord with people, no matter where they live: “‘Cause everything’s changing/Yes, everything’s changing/Yes, everything keeps changing/And I’ve never been good with change.” The sound of this track is rather haunting, and her vocal performance is powerful, having an ethereal element, like the town itself slipping away. Yet you get the sense that the person in this song will manage somehow. Then “The Gardener” softly and gently pulls us in, featuring some wonderful work on strings. This one is a portrait of a lonely woman who is unable to have children. “I’m sure my neighbors think I’m crazy/Sometimes I catch myself talking to myself/When I’m out in the garden.” This track features nice work on mandolin.
“Jericho Walls” has a somewhat brighter sound from the start, with that work on violin, but with something sad beneath. And isn’t that how life feels? A little sadness in every smile, a little worry behind every joy, a little weariness in every step. Her voice captures that so well. “But I give up on love before it starts.” This song is about letting others inside, about taking down your defenses, and it leaves us with this thought: “‘Cause it won’t matter how many miles you run/If you don’t let yourself find that sweet someone.” Then “Let There Be No Despair,” the album’s title track, begins gently, easing in. Her voice is so gorgeous here, and she speaks for all of us as she asks, “How many ways can the world try and get you down?” Sometimes we need a good cry, a cry that actually keeps us from despair, and this song can certainly provide the place for such tears. Check out these lines: “Friends become strangers/No one says why/Your peace becomes anger/And your songs become scythes/You try to remember/All you forgot/But all you remember/Is all that you’ve lost.” And listen to that wonderful work on strings. Every song on this album is excellent, and yet this one still manages to stand out.
There is yet more beautiful work on strings at the beginning
of “Always.” “Take what I have and I promise to stand and deliver/Because loving you,
yeah darling, loving you/Is all that I want to do/Always.” Ah, so sweet. I
hope everyone experiences a love like this, for it makes all the difference.
Then when “Two Shoulders” begins, it feels like a ray of light entering, a
touch of warmth. There is something otherworldly, heavenly about it. Then the
strumming on guitar feels like an earthly response to that warmth. And soon
Jess Jocoy’s voice comes in: “How much
weight can two shoulders take/I’m tired, but not ready to sleep.” Isn’t that
a question many of us are asking? Life feels heavy these days. But her voice is
comforting and beautiful. And before the end, she concludes, “I guess I’ll find out just how much weight
two shoulders can really take.” That’s a way of urging us all to hold on
and do our best. We’ll see, eh? That song is followed by “Waiting To Exhale,” which
has a darker, intriguing sound at the beginning. The line “I’m
getting paid to tell you you’ll be all right” is so interesting, for it is
obviously quite different from actually assuring the person she’ll be all right.
This is a powerful song. The album concludes with “Common Kindness,” one I
think everyone will relate to. “Times are
hard enough as it is/Maybe one day we’ll find a way to let go and forgive.”
Maybe, maybe. I remain hopeful.
CD Track List
- I Will Be Glad
- The One I’m Living For
- Living In A Dying Town
- The Gardener
- Jericho Walls
- Let There Be No Despair
- Two Shoulders
- Waiting To Exhale
- Common Kindness
Let There Be No Despair is scheduled to be released on May 20, 2022. After really getting into this album, I want to pick up copies of her earlier releases (the other full-length album and a couple of EPs).