Renowned violinist, singer, and composer Jenny Scheinman recently released her eighth album, The Littlest Prisoner, enlisting the great Bill Frisell on guitar and drummer extraordinaire Brian Blade to keep time. My first introduction to Jenny Scheinman was while she was touring with Lucinda Williams some time back. Known mostly in jazz circles, Scheinman has put together seven beautifully crafted Americana songs and three fitting instrumentals to paint her picture. Tucker Martine (The Decemberists, My Morning Jacket, Neko Case) was tagged to produce the record which was recorded in a mere 72 hours. Uniqueness is never an issue on a Jenny Scheinman record. The simplicity and stripped-down delivery of music on The Littlest Prisoner is what resonates. Although Scheinman’s eighth record, it’s just the second to feature her as a singer. The instrumentation is brilliant and the lyrics saunter back and forth from dark to light, yet somehow you hang on to every word; every bit ethereal as personal.
The title track tells the story of a jailed mother-to-be and her conversation with her unborn baby. It’s her venting and behest, warning the forthcoming new edition of the challenges and travails to come. Ironically enough, the song started out being about Scheinman’s own pregnancy. While nursing her fevered body back to health sans medicine in an ice bath due to a fever, she began writing it as her unborn child was trapped inside her fevered womb. After testing her songs on the road, it morphed into the tale that is the finished product and title track onThe Littlest Prisoner .
“Run, Run, Run” is an uptempo highlight, with its train chugging back beat and harmonious noodling by Bill Frisell, paired with Scheinman’s violin-filled chorus. The song is the story of relationship procrastination, “a shit-or-get-off-the-pot song,” as per Scheinman herself. It’s infectious and will round out well on any playlist. The country dance instrumentals are a true gem on the record. They are the proverbial glue that holds the album together and a true time for Scheinman to shine and showcase her violin skillset, which is second to none. The Littlest Prisoner is an impressive Americana effort and a showcase of American music -- “three chords and the truth”…take heed.
+Words: Scott Zuppardo+