San Francisco-Based Jenny Gillespie Releases Artful “Cure for Dreaming”

8 Mar

Jenny Gillespie is a San Francisco-based singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist who weaves folk, electronica, progressive jazz, and 1970s pop into a fabric that’s at once accessible and experimental.

Gillespie is a true artist — painting with a palette that includes her wonderfully expressive and wide-ranging voice and a mix of piano, guitar and electronica. She’s a former editor of children’s stories. Has an MFA in poetry. And studied African guitar picking to add guitar skills to her mastery of the synthesizer, Mellotron and Wurlitzer organ.

One thing that makes Gillespie’s songs so compelling are her consistently excellent lyrics. The one-sheet accompanying her new album, Cure for Dreaming, says that Gillespie’s lyrics explore “themes of motherhood, marriage, spirituality, and dying.” But Gillespie’s avoids the cliché and contrived — telling stories filled with realistic characters who have flaws and live with life’s challenges and rewards as they learn what it means to be human.

Cure for Dreaming is Gillespie’s fourth album, together with two EPs. The first single she released from the album was “Part Potawatomi,” a breezy and jazzy number with a strummed guitar, slinky Latin beat, shimmering synths, and funky bass line. The Potawatomi are a Native American people who inhabited the Great Plains, upper Mississippi River, and the western Great Lakes region. I have no idea whether Gillespie can actually trace part of her heritage to the tribe or not.

“Involuntary Sway” is bouncy, cheerful pop-rock that’s really catchy. It has a march-like tempo, and features electric piano and shimmering synths under Gillespie’s sweet lead vocals and rich backing harmonies.

A personal favorite of mine on the album is “Last Mystery Train.” This is melodic baroque-pop with a soaring, cinematic flavor. Again, piano is prominent, and an achingly beautiful pedal steel guitar echoes across the landscape, bringing sadness to the story being told.

The final track I’d like to mention is “His Voyage Innocent.” The song is highlighted by repeated piano arpeggios and synth replies. Gillespie’s vocals are especially poignant here — expressive and distinctive. The song builds toward the end, with her repeated vocal refrains of “Who will mother me?”

Gillespie seems like a fascinating artist who would be interesting to meet and talk with. She’s married to the founder and former CEO of Groupon and now has child. Cure for Dreaming is clearly the work of a maturing artist who has much to contribute to the music scene.


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