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Jenny M Thomas and The System – A Review

Jenny M Thomas and The System, The Merry Muse, Friday 17 Aug 2012
by James Ashburner

What a horrible day in Canberra. It rained, was bitterly cold and windy. It snowed. But three of Australia’s finest improvising musicians and an upcoming folk band were here.

The support group, The Lucky Wonders, is known for well-crafted songs and good shows. Gee, they’re good. Two singer-writers with guitars, ukulele, and flute, plus electric bass and drum kit. All four know their stuff, and keep the entertainment moving without seeming rushed. They are interesting people, too.

Then it was time for Jenny, Dan Whitton (double bass), and Chris? Lewis? (drums). Sadly a slab of the already small audience had left, why I know not?

Jenny and the lads lead off with ‘Down, Down, Derry Down’, hauntingly arranged for upright piano, drums and bowed bass, with all three singing. Affecting, and intensely musical. The sparse treatments showed me how Jenny, Dan, and Chris are rethinking the music, and ensuring that every note counts.

A new theme of their music is contrasting textures within songs: sparse against dense, slower over faster. Also Chris and Dan have really found their singing voices, which means three musicians using up to three voices mingled with three instruments.

For a decade I have enjoyed Jenny’s visits, and followed her musical journey. Now with The System we have a trio-sextet to take my breath away.