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09 février 2008

Young singer creates intelligent pop music

Courtney Jones is a self-confessed “piano-lesson dropout.” However, she did find “a couple of chords I liked. I just played them over and over again and then found some words I liked,” Jones says. It all started when she was walking home from school one day. “I just had a concept stick in my head,” she says. “Nobody ever told me I couldn’t write a song.”

That’s quite apparent from her new album “Awake & Dreaming,” a tasteful collection of her soft rock tunes that would fit comfortably in anyone’s collection along with titles from Fleetwood Mac, Sarah McLachlan and Paula Cole.
The album was mixed by Mark Needham, who’s worked with Fleetwood Mac as well as The Killers, and features a number of standout musicians, including Stevie Blacke, Bob Glaub and Butch Norton, who’ve worked with Jennifer Hudson, Bob Dylan and Lucinda Williams, among others.

One of the CD’s cuts, “Long Way Down,” is part of the soundtrack for the new movie “Cosmic Radio,” which stars Michael Madsen and Daryl Hannah, and which also features cuts from Peter Gabriel, Elton John and Cat Stevens. It’s a long way from her days as a regular karaoke singer in a pizza parlor, Jones notes. “It started to bother me after awhile,” she says. “I didn’t want to keep singing other people’s songs.”

But she also knew she didn’t quite fit in with her peers, some of whom are more concerned with producing blaring, belligerent music that rips out your heart rather than tickles your ears. She feels called to a more meditative sound. “It’s not angry enough to be any number of genres,” she says with a chuckle. “I think there’s a really subtle connection that’s happening here with music that doesn’t smash your face in with a lot of bass and percussion.”

She also knew she had no desire to create escapist fantasies for her audience. “A lot of people go for flash because they want to distance themselves from reality, their reality. But that’s not me. I go for the narrative. I want it to be what’s actually happening.”

With her father, Andrew, encouraging her to concentrate on music, Jones left college a few years back and devoted her self to writing and singing. Just 21 years old, Jones, who hails from the Salem area, has made a relatively quick rise, having already worked with some top music industry guns, including Peter Malick, who’s played his guitar alongside another Jones – Norah Jones – not to mention Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Otis Spann and others.

Malick notes that unlike Norah, whose first hit “Don’t Know Why,” was written by Jesse Harris, Courtney pretty much wrote all of “Awake & Dreaming.”

“She’s a much stronger writer than Norah,” Malick says of Courtney, adding that her words betray great emotional depth. “I think lyrically she really gets into the heart of human existence, and you can’t do much better than that.”

Courtney, who’s done 140 shows over the past 15 months, has played everywhere from the House of Blues in Chicago and Room 5 in Los Angeles to Berbati’s Pan and The Roseland in Portland. She’s set to perform with her band – guitarist Mike Dongug, bassist Steve Morgan and drummer Steve Turnell – at Borders in Gresham this Saturday.

Jones hooked up with Malick through, sending him a demo of her music, and the rest was history. “She’s got a great voice,” he says. “She is captivating.” Jones adds that she hopes his opinion is something people of all generations share. “I want to reach everybody,” she says. “I really aim to write and make music that everyone can draw from.”

By Rob Cullivan The Gresham Outlook, Feb 5, 2008 (news photo)

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