Growing up watching her father play piano served as the impetus for singer-songwriter Jessie Houghton's desire to play music. She began teaching herself how to play the guitar at 14 and has been playing and writing songs ever since. She grew up in and still lives in Maple Valley, Washington, where she recorded this collection of songs entitled The Donut with the help of Robert Auerbach.
The songs were recorded over two days in her bedroom with only the essential instrumentation. It's an EP made up of Houghton’s guitar playing and her incredible voice. Along with the stripped down recording comes a bit of nitpicking, but mostly a legitimate complaint and that is that her guitar spends quite a bit of the recording just out of tune. In the hands of someone like the Moldy Peaches or Daniel Johnston that could be seen as a deliberate decision, but something about the nature of this recording leads me to believe that that simply isn't the case. On the plus side, Houghton's voice more than makes up for much of the rushed, lo-fi nature of the recording.
The EP begins with "Not A Love Song,” a song that demands to be called a love song until the chorus. Houghton did a great job of arranging her cover of "The One That I Want,” making the mood of the song much more haunting and almost creepy. You can almost picture the protagonist singing this song while holding a meat cleaver. "What It Is" is my favorite song of the five that are here. It feels like it's the best suited to Houghton's voice, with its soulful melody and arrangement. "Cain Wasn't Abel" adds a harmonica and piano to the sound and it does so very well, without them the song would have been mostly forgettable. The EP closes with "Be My Man,” a song that features a lot of ambient noise along with the song itself. It’s almost as if the song was recorded with the group of singers that come in at the end talking during the beginning of the recording.
While there is definitely some charm in Jessie Houghton's music, it definitely needs a bit of work. The recordings feel like they were done without thought or intention, like they set up a mic in a room while she played them for herself. What I'd like to hear is these songs recorded by someone that really knows how to handle engineering and production because this could have been a great recording. For now, it'll have to be considered decent.
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