Jill Andrews became known to many Americana music fans through her former band. Led by the duo of Andrews and Sam Quinn, who were also a couple early on in the band's history, the Everybodyfields came out of the mountains of Johnson City, TN to ultimately settle in Knoxville. Right as the band seemed on the cusp of significant success, it broke up as both Quinn and Andrews chose to pursue solo careers in 2009.
After quietly putting out an EP later that year, Andrews has released her first album The Mirror. The record has two producers, each recording tracks at two different studios (Scott Solter in North Carolina and Neilson Hubbard in Nashville). The two producers also provide two distinct sets of sounds and textures as Hubbard's tracks have a fuller pop production while Solter's tracks take a more stripped-down approach.
In the past few years, Andrews has experienced a great deal of change in her life. She's gotten married, given birth to her son, and embarked on a solo career after having spending several years as part of the Everybodyfields. The surprising revelation of The Mirror is how it is able to capture the entire emotional scope of those changes.
The album starts with "Sounds of the Bells" an orchestrated pop song that builds with a rushing chorus. For those used to the simpler acoustics of her former band, the leadoff track comes as a surprise, but Andrews pulls it off. Next, comes "Wake Up Nico", a lullaby for her infant son. In these two songs, Andrews gives a taste of her new life and new found contentment as a wife and mother. However, this is only the beginning as her songs soon focus on the pain and loss that preceded her current happiness.
The breathtaking "Sinking Ship" follows and begins with these devastating lines:
I can't sing these songs no more
I can't look at your eyes pretending that you still love me
There's no hope in there
I gave up a long time ago but I'm searching
Now not finding the better part of me cause I want it back
I want it back
The song captures the moment a long relationship is finally over. She looks back at all she has lost knowing the most devastating loss was herself.
The Mirror doesn't try to linearly follow the path of going from a failed relationship to a loving one. Instead, it places happier songs next to sad ones next to pensive ones. This effect is further heightened by having two producers with different aesthetics. The resulting album becomes like the thoughts inside our minds as they ponder difficult subjects and consider them from many angles, trying to find a sense of understanding.
After the aching sadness of "Sinking Ship", "Blue Sky" and "Blue Eyes" come next with the former coaxing a "glass half full" perspective to life while the latter finds Andrews reflecting on the simple gifts that she has been given through her young family. Although both songs are of happier subjects, each reveal some past moments of darkness underneath the happiness.
"Cut and Run" and "Little Less" bring back the sadness of "Sinking Ship". "Cut and Run" details the aftermath as she's finally walked away from a broken relationship ("I will miss the dreams in my head. More than I will miss, more than I will miss the way it was.") "Little Less" takes her back to those moments when she was alone, far from her missing lover who hasn't been there for far too long:
The night is a black crow
And I am a sparrow
I sing to my lover and dive through the dark
With a little less of my heart
By the time the album ends with "You" proving the humbling and moving need for love and connection, Andrews has taken her listener on a powerful journey through her heart and mind.
Andrews leads us on this journey with a rare and pure voice. It can be sweet for pop songs, and it can also bring real mountain soul to acoustic ones. Her vocals bridge the gap between Jewel and Gillian Welch, two strong and unique singers. Considering the vast emotional landscape Andrews travels on The Mirror, her ability to shift quickly from one vocal style to another only adds to this album's beauty and sadness.
While Andrews doesn't play on this metaphor in the lyrics of her title song, calling her album The Mirror does bring to mind how seemingly perfect reflections in a mirror are also reversed. In the same way, the pain and heartbreak of past relationships will often fuel and inform the stability of a loving marriage. This duality of reversed reflections lies at the heart of the song tapestry of The Mirror. It places all of love's images next to pain's to present them as one thing, always connected.
- Jim Markel
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