Jana Heller

(Cycle Records, Cycle CD 003)

It must be six years ago I last saw Jana play live at the Grove Folk Club, Stratford E15. What a magical night - virtuoso appalachian dulcimer, fine acoustic guitar, a moving powerful voice and really memorable songs with great hooks which lure you into singing. Jana Heller is an American who has been based in England for some time, and I think this is her debut CD - although there have been some self-produced tapes.

This album moves some way from the simple acoustic accompaniments for intimate folk clubs, and Jana Heller is joined by Paul Burgess, Nigel Stonier, Pete Zorn, Paul Rhodes, Mike Hehir, Darrin Tidsey, Clare Teal, Andy Blythe, Alistair Gordon, Haffy (sic), Ken Nicol and Sara Austin, on Laughing in Crime to produce a contemporary rock album which sits neatly alongside Springsteen and Alanis Morisette.

The songs are just as memorable, intelligent and witty, but this album has real 'bite'. The production by Nigel Stonier is direct and clean and you get a feel-good factor every time you listen.

Jana Heller has a product here which could make her a big star - an English-based singer-songwriter a la Kate Bush or Tasmin Archer. Though not really a traditional album this is a brilliant piece of work.

Performance *** Sound quality ***

Tony Kendall, The Essex Man

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