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Janet Marlow: Smooth Romance

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First you will say, “What’s a 10-string guitar?” To put it simply, it has greater range than a 6-string guitar, without the jangling sound associated with the 12-string. Janet Marlow makes it sing mellow, and here she puts it in smooth surroundings, taking it around the world. The sound is warm, intimate, and very active for this genre. Smooth, maybe. Romance? You bet!

The congas pop and the organ whistles on “Tropical Guitar”, a sunny place far from noise. Janet’s line is simple and clean, some chords in places, but nothing flashy – just beautiful. Her solo is basic: the theme is varied, a stacatto note is repeated, and a vigorous strum takes us out. As it goes on, you find yourself listening less to the notes played than to the sound itself. She knows how to speak through her instrument, and with her, you know this is no ordinary guitar.

Keeping the mood of the opener (this time on electric 10-string), “Time Alone With You” opens with a gentle strum and Mark Egan’s very fluid bass. It’s his showcase; the notes bend, slide and soar in a great melodic turn. Janet’s solo has a muscular tone, with a liquid feel and little slides at the fade.

The acoustic is back on “Tuck It In”, and so is the metallic ring of her strings. This has light percussion and dancing synth, and an alternating note pattern similar to “Tropical Guitar”. There’s plenty of sunshine; call it the island next door! “Romance is a classical piece: first played by Janet in the Spanish style, then it swings with Alan Brennan’s violin (first played like Grappelli, then more active.) Janet returns with the tempo still high; this time she plays it with chords, fusing the styles. This is fun, and my favorite of the instrumentals.

“Take Five” is the first of two vocals, helped by the trombone of Chris Brubeck. Janet’s vocal is high and sweet, with nice quavers. The words don’t do much for me but the performance is there. “The Art of a Kiss” is a Marlow original and a GREAT song, describing the components of romance with joy and charm. “A wrist, an ear, a stare from your eyes/ makes your lover want to be near...” It’s playful, and it’s the best of show.

“Jiggin’” begins with a nice rumbling guitar and pinpoint synth by Pete Levin. Brennan comes in with folksy fiddle and then the setting turns modern. Brennan’s tone remains the same, and his grainy sound goes great against the slick background. Janet’s electric solo is pleasant enough, but this one belongs to Brennan, whom I’d like to hear more. “Eye to Eye” could be heard on the radio; it’s driven by a gimmicky synth (its beeps and boops are straight out of the ‘70s) that works amid the moderate groove. Again, Janet is mainly in the background, coming out for a warm solo, where high noted dance with the synth. And “Sweet Sensation” uses chords and thick echo to embrace you. The sound of her acoustic is especially tender, and when she begins a pattern, the echo does the rest – lovely. Levin’s solo makes the synth sound like a wood flute – a bit cutesy, but fine. It’s a particularly sweet ending to an album full of sunshine.


Title: Smooth Romance | Year Released: 1999 | Record Label: JMMusic

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