Album Review

Jane Bruce - My Bed

On My Bed, the deeply personal is all the politics there is. Not to say that there’s any simple resolution to be found: for Bruce, conflicting feelings and contradictory impulses are dissected, sometimes subdued, but rarely tamed.

Holler Country Music

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Jane Bruce recorded the nine songs on My Bed before the pandemic, so there’s a certain innocence to the record, even as it examines the passion and conflicting emotions invariably accompanying the splintering of a romantic relationship.

Here, the deeply personal is all the politics there is, which, after the past couple of years, is a bit of relief. Not to say that there’s any simple resolution to be found on My Bed: for Bruce, conflicting feelings and contradictory impulses are dissected, sometimes subdued, but rarely tamed.

The Utah native’s introspective lyrical leanings and folk guitar style call to mind Joni Mitchel and Shawn Colvin, both of whom she counts as influences. Opening track ‘Best of Me,’ which finds Bruce trying to tame her racing mind - “Cause I’ve been feeling kinda crazy / I liked when you called me baby / How ‘bout you?” - also echoes the earlier work of English songwriter Beth Orton.

While a ruminative mood dominates My Bed, Bruce isn’t afraid to show a little teeth on rockers such as ‘Song About You’ and ‘Man Talk.’ The former, released as a single in January, is the record's high point, with its jazzy chords and nimble vocals. Bruce is an assured singer and an accomplished actress, able to perfectly convey a simmering outrage over an ex’s perplexing behavior. And she employs a perfectly placed expletive to satisfying effect: “So here’s your fucking song about you / I moved on / It’s your time to”.

‘Messy’ is Bruce at her most brutally honest self, fessing up to her possessiveness, anxiety and less scrupulous communications when it comes to her own actions. “I can’t help feeling that my heart’s diseased / Ooh ooh ooh don’t forget me / I know I’m messy,” she croons, as she works to come to terms with her own interior landscape.

With determined vocals underscored by propulsive drums, Bruce takes her power back on ‘Man Talk’. “I’m tired of being walked all over / So I’ll do like every man and walk over first” she sings with conviction. Listening to this track, it's especially easy to hear why she was cast in the Broadway premier of Jagged Little Pill, based on the iconic Alanis Morrisette album - and how that material may have informed My Bed: Bruce wrote the bulk of the record after moving to Cambridge, MA to begin work on the play.

Her voice is even more ragged on ‘My Bed,’ expressing both pain and defiance as she reaches an understanding beyond her own anger and frustration: “Maybe you’ll see me clearly now that you’ve time to clear your head / But anything less than loving has no place in my bed.” But she’s pure Hejira-era Joni on ‘Sweet Speculation’: a woman on her own, ready for what’s next, owning her own desires and complexity as she sings “I’m stronger than I know / I don’t need you to tell me so.”

Self-acceptance — acceptance in general — is hard-won rather than a given, still thorny, but ultimately the best outcome.

7/10

My Bed is out on Friday February 11